South African violence about more than xenophobia

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images For over a week now, Johannesburg has been struck by a wave of violence directed at migrants from neighboring countries. Currently the death toll stands at 22, but as riots continue today in the Reiger Park area, that number will continue to rise. So will the number of people who have been forced ...

594957_080520_sa_811511865.jpg
594957_080520_sa_811511865.jpg

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

For over a week now, Johannesburg has been struck by a wave of violence directed at migrants from neighboring countries. Currently the death toll stands at 22, but as riots continue today in the Reiger Park area, that number will continue to rise. So will the number of people who have been forced from their homes, which has by now entered the thousands. South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki made a plea for an end to orchestrated violence in impoverished settlements, as the government debated whether to call in the army to combat the violent mobs. So far, control of the rioting has been left up to the police, who, although they have already arrested nearly 300 people, appear overwhelmed by the situation and have seen little abatement in the xenophobic crime wave.

Zimbabweans make up a large percentage of the immigrants in South Africa, and are estimated to number up to three million in that country. As the human rights situation in Zimbabwe deteriorates, and thousands more flee post-election violence, intimidation and disastrous economic hardship, that number is likely to increase. But according to an editorial yesterday in the Financial Times:

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

For over a week now, Johannesburg has been struck by a wave of violence directed at migrants from neighboring countries. Currently the death toll stands at 22, but as riots continue today in the Reiger Park area, that number will continue to rise. So will the number of people who have been forced from their homes, which has by now entered the thousands. South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki made a plea for an end to orchestrated violence in impoverished settlements, as the government debated whether to call in the army to combat the violent mobs. So far, control of the rioting has been left up to the police, who, although they have already arrested nearly 300 people, appear overwhelmed by the situation and have seen little abatement in the xenophobic crime wave.

Zimbabweans make up a large percentage of the immigrants in South Africa, and are estimated to number up to three million in that country. As the human rights situation in Zimbabwe deteriorates, and thousands more flee post-election violence, intimidation and disastrous economic hardship, that number is likely to increase. But according to an editorial yesterday in the Financial Times:

It would be wrong to think this explosion of xenophobia is simply the reaction to uncontrolled immigration. It is also the result of rising food prices, falling living standards, unemployment of 30 per cent and above, and a government perceived as deaf to the plight of the poor.”

Indeed, there are deeper issues underlying the anger spilling over in Johannesburg. Not least of which are the growing food insecurity in the nation, a broken system for handling refugees and total failure of Mbeki’s government to seek political solutions to the crisis in Zimbabwe. The South African Institute of Race Relations today released a statement outlining nine policy failures of Thabo Mbeki’s government including failure to maintain the rule of law, lack of border control, slowing economic growth, poor service delivery and failures of foreign policy. It seems that although Mr. Mbeki’s current problem is how to put a stop to maurading mobs, prevention of future flare-ups will require both vast policy reform and more than a little soul-searching.

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