South Africa confronts anti-immigration violence

South Africa confronts anti-immigration violence

When South Africa’s National Party lost power in 1994 and the country switched from a political apartheid system to a system of majority rule, the world watched in hopes that the country’s issues with xenophobia would start to diminish. However, aggressive acts sparked by xenophobia persist today.


After a recent speech in which King Goodwill Zwelithini said that foreigners “should pack up their bags and go,” violence broke out in Durban.


South African liberal think-tank Institute of Race Relations criticizes South Africa’s governmental policies on unemployment and education as an “absolute failure.” The group warns that as the country’s economy weakens, xenophobia inspired violence could surge.


During a recent speech, King Zwelithini asked for peace and shared efforts that will be taken to counter xenophobia. (

During a recent speech, King Zwelithini asked for peace and shared efforts that will be taken to counter xenophobia. (

In attempt to reflect South Africa’s xenophobia issues in an accurate and fair light, we reached out to born-and-raised South African Abby Banda, a serial entrepreneur currently based in New York City. Banda directed some questions we had toward her colleague, South African journalist Mduduzi Dlamini.


From 2008 to 2009, Dlamini assisted a non-government organization to fight anti-immigration riots by focusing on creating a space in which low-income South Africans could interact with immigrants.


When asked about media coverage of the anti-immigration violence in South Africa — particularly the media’s prevalent use of the word “xenophobia” — Dlamini had the following to say: “Instead of ‘anti-immigrants,’ the word ‘xenophobia’ is used. However, let’s stress that it’s social xenophobia, not clinical one, though the word has dangerous connotations of degrading the alleged holder of xenophobic sentiment as mentally unstable.”


The tendency to label anti-immigration South Africans as xenophobic calls into question their mental stability and delegitimizes their anti-immigration sentiment, when they should be held fully accountable for their actions and taken more seriously.


Dlamini sees the growing attention the media has been giving to South Africa as well deserved and beneficial. He points out that President Zuma canceled a recent diplomatic trip to Indonesia to direct his energy and attention toward the country’s domestic issues.


Additionally, King Zwelithini recently held an imibzo at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban to condemn xenophobia and implore citizens to protect foreigners and cease violent behaviors.


Now that the world is looking upon South Africa, the pressure will be on to resolve anti-immigration sentiments quickly and neatly. Dlamini concluded his thoughts on anti-immigration with the following statements: “There’s been an immediate and swift response by authorities and civil society on the issues concerned. The complaints, overall, pale in comparison to the work being done as a consequence of the spotlight.”


How do you think that media attention will affect South Africa’s issues with anti-immigration violence? Share your thoughts below or on Twitter @ryanlawlessness.

Ryan Lawless

Ryan Lawless is an undergraduate student at Fordham University. He studies English and Spanish as majors, and philosophy as a minor. He won the Margaret Lamb Writing to the Right-Hand Margin award for creative fictional writing, and has been published in Fordham's literary magazine The Ampersand, and its newspaper, The Observer. Ryan grew up in New York, but is also an Irish citizen. He enjoys fiddles, coffee, and music.

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