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Thursday, March 05, 2015
Nelson Mandela overcame white-minority rule by convincing South Africans they were better off united than divided. In the euphoria of the first free elections in 1994, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called the country the “Rainbow Nation.”
But as South Africa’s economy falters, it is no longer so welcoming to outsiders. South Africa’s economy has been growing less than 2% a year. More than half of people here younger than 25 are unemployed. For nearly a decade, xenophobic attacks have flared sporadically across the country. Hundreds of stores have been ransacked every year since a wave of violence that killed more than 60 foreigners in 2008, according to Human Rights Watch and immigrants’ rights groups. Amnesty International said in February that not one South African has been convicted of a crime related to any of those thefts, assaults and murders. The country’s National Prosecuting Authority confirmed that is the case.
Mandela encouraged a spirit of pan-Africanism to bolster the continent on the world stage. A refugee act he signed in 1998 opened the door to more than 300,000 asylum seekers fleeing persecution in Ethiopia, Somalia, Zimbabwe and other African countries. Today, many poorer South Africans feel such openness has compromised their future.
Gwede Mantashe, the ANC’s secretary-general, made no apologies for the party’s embrace of policies that appeal to the prejudices of poor South Africans. “Sometimes, people talk to us as if we are governing for foreign investors. They are not citizens. The interests of citizens come before foreigners.” As usual and to be expected, ANC failures to fulfil promises are being blamed upon scapegoats – South African newcomers.
Those who blame foreigners for their grievances, Archbishop Tutu said are “spitting in the face of non-racialism and undermining a key foundation stone of our democracy.”
Xenophobia in South Africa – March edition of the Socialist Standard