Latest violent spree of xenophobic attacks in South Africa against Nigerians has its hidden reasons. Xenophobia in SA against black immigrants from other African countries has its roots hidden in the past.
Xenophobia is feeling hatred, anger and fear towards foreigners. Around the world the question of the race is usually one of defining reasons behind xenophobia in society. Nevertheless xenophobia in South Africa is a unique case.
The situation with xenophobia in South Africa against Nigerians and immigrants from other African countries has really worsened considerably. The reasons behind this problem are often underestimated. The legacy of the apartheid era is one of them. The South African laws didn’t welcome immigrants, especially from African countries.
Long history of isolation led to a phenomenon that many South Africans still don’t consider their own homeland at the southern tip of Africa as a part of African continent. Since that it is much easier for South African black people feel xenophobic against black people from other African countries.
But the main reason behind xenophobia in South Africa is economic situation with youth unemployment. Since 1994, when SA finally opened its borders to the world, unemployment figures in this country grew considerably. The figures of unemployment nearly doubled. Black Africans account for almost half of unemployed people in SA. Among all those unemployed young people represent more than half.
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Poor education among black population is one of the main factors behind these figures. The other factor from apartheid era is that backs were banished to distant homelands, and only allowed to come to the “white” areas if they had a job. As a result, a substantial part of the African population of South Africa grew up far from the centers of business and industry.
At the same time immigrants from Nigeria and other African countries often tend to live and do business in those areas where the unemployment level is particularly high. Along with levels of inequality this fuel feel of hate and immigrants become an easy target for xenophobic attacks.
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The xenophobic haters who blame and attack the immigrants for stealing their jobs in fact are shooting their own legs because immigrants tend to create new jobs rather than steal them. People from Nigeria are leaving their home country in search of business opportunities they didn’t have home.
Nigerian businessman Fred Egwu, who employs three people in South Africa, says immigrants are successful because "there is nowhere to run to when things do not work out; maybe that is what drives us when we live in another country".
To tackle xenophobia, South African authorities must do something with unemployment rates among young people along with creating for non-SA Africans positive image of people who actually give jobs to South Africans contrary to belief they steal them.
Ikechukwu Anyene, the president of the Nigerian Union, a Nigerian group based in South Africa, has called for help from the Nigerian government to stop xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in that country.
“ We do not understand why from time to time, South Africans attack Nigerians in their country.The Federal Government should take the issue of xenophobic attacks in South Africa very seriously because Nigerians do not carry out xenophobic attacks against fellow Africans,’’ he said.
Nigerians who are currently living in Durban were planning to protest against the xenophobic attacks, but they were denied a permit from the strict South African police.