A witch’s brew of unemployment, inequality and poverty, mixed with South Africa’s violent past, are to blame for attacks on foreigners that so tarnished the country’s image last month, experts say.
The deadly assaults rocked South Africa’s relations with its neighbors but especially with Nigeria, whose president, Muhammadu Buhari, begins a state visit here on Thursday.
At least 10 South Africans and two foreigners were killed after mobs descended on foreign-owned stores in poor districts in and around Johannesburg.
South Africa is a magnet for poor migrants from neighboring Mozambique, Lesotho and Zimbabwe, but even further afield, including Nigeria and even South Asia.
Reliable figures are sketchy, but the last census in 2011 counted just over 2.1 million “international migrants”, around four percent of South Africa’s population at the time.
“We cannot understand the xenophobia of today without locating it in deep, deep poverty” and the government’s failure to “transform society” after apartheid, she told AFP.
Many gave the ANC arms, money and political support, allowing it to topple the regime and win every election since.
Failure of the State
More than 50 shops and businesses, mostly owned by African migrants, have been destroyed as xenophobic violence increases in South Africa pic.twitter.com/DyQS8FB8W0
— Bloomberg TicToc (@tictoc) September 4, 2019
Former President Jacob Zuma has been charged with 16 counts of corruption during his time in office. The accusations prompted his resignation last year, although prosecution has been sluggish.
“South Africa is a very bad example of people doing terrible things and getting a get-out-of-jail-free card,” said Heleta.
“When no one gets arrested, that’s when people start to realize that they can do terrible things.”