Monday, February 10, 2014

One People

In South Africa, xenophobia is a growing problem, and it is manifesting itself against Africans who are seeking refuge in the country. One in four South Africans is currently unemployed, and many of them fear the foreigners will steal their jobs.

Somali refugee Mohammed left the nightmare of his war-torn home and travelled nearly two-and-a-half thousand miles to South Africa. He came to the country looking for a better life, but instead what he found was violence, poverty and racism. Mohammed is one of a growing number of African refugees who face daily harassment and violence at the hands of local South Africans.

“Since I got here, I faced a lot of problems. They [South Africans] chase us away from where we were living and where we set up businesses. They come in a group, start looting our stuff, and kill our people.”

In recent years, attacks against African foreigners have multiplied, leaving dozens dead. Thousands of Somalis, Ethiopians, Zimbabweans and Mozambicans have fled to South Africa, attracted by the relatively strong economy.

Imacal Tafesel, an Ethiopian refugee, runs a small stall selling clothes, and blames the police for not doing anything to stop the xenophobic attacks. He said that often, it is the police who are behind such attacks. “Once, seven police officers came to my shop and took my stuff. Most of the police here don’t like us. They tell us to go back to our countries,” said Imacal Tafesel.

In South Africa, many people live in extreme poverty. Alexandra township, just outside Johannesburg, is home to nearly half a million people with limited resources.

Domestic worker Mavis Makama was born in South Africa, and struggled for years to get her current job. Even though she earns just a minimum wage, it is a lifesaver for her. “It’s very hard to find a job here, because the people from Zimbabwe, they come here to take our jobs. And now that I must look after my son, it is very difficult for me,” said Mavis Makama.

The solution is not to seek to blame other victims but to understand the cause of poverty and change the system which permits it. 

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