Xenophobic Attacks in South Africa

Our rainbow nation that so filled the world with hope is being reduced to a grubby shadow of itself.
(Desmond Tutu)

South Africa has been in the grip recently of xenophobic violence, notably against Mozambicans, Somalis and Pakistanis, fuelled by remarks from the traditional leader of the Zulus and the son of President Zuma. The army and massive publication campaigns are being rolled out to quell the unrest.  However, the experience after the previous xenophobic attacks, in 2008, show that the underlying smoldering fire is unlikely to be extinguished soon.

The attacks show South African people’s frustration with perennial shortfalls of services, dwellings and jobs.  Moreover, they illustrate the failure of the South African education system to equip its citizens with the skills to function in society.  Dramatic learning outcomes leave South Africans unable to compete with people from poorer nations in Southern Africa.  Additionally, foreigners and the past are used as a scapegoat to hide their own failing.   The Economist writes:

The government’s response has often been to describe incidents as “criminality” rather than admit to a specific problem with violence against foreigners. Recent policies have, moreover, fostered a negative view of foreigners, such as the debate over proposals to prevent them from buying land. South Africa’s Institute of Race Relations, a liberal think-tank, points to the “absolute failure” of government policy to deal with unemployment and with deficiencies in the education system. It warns that xenophobic attacks may well increase as the economy weakens.