XENOPHOBIC VIOLENCE IN SOUTH AFRICA
The brutal apartheid era practice of setting opponents on fire has been revived in this country’s crowded, litter-strewn shantytowns. But now the victims are foreign migrants.
Anger over unemployment and rising prices and simmering resentment against illegal foreign migrants exploded into a xenophobic violence in South Africa, with at least 22 people slain in the past 10 days. Hundreds more were injured and as many as 10,000 fled their homes, as analysts struggled for explanations on what triggered the violence.
South Africans woke on Monday to shocking images of a man in flames, one of the several victims burnt alive. Several newspapers reported that onlookers in the township of Reiger Park, east of Johannesburg, laughed as the man rocked in agony.
Nobel peace prize laureate Desmond Tutu summed up the mood of despair Monday, issuing a plea to “Please stop the violence now. This is not how we behave. These are our sisters and brothers. Please, please stop”.
South African president Thabo Mbeki also called for an end to the “shameful and criminal acts”. During the apartheid times, political violence sometimes involved victims setting on fire, on occasion after neck lacing them with spare tires that pinned their arms to their sides.
The victims of the latest violence are mainly Southern African migrants in particular Zimbabweans, drawn to South Africa in the hope of finding jobs. South Africans also have been attacked on times.
Violence in several neighbor hoods continued on Monday, with attackers burning thousands of foreigners homes. The body of a man who was chopped and burned was recovered by the police.
People are saying that these Zimbabweans must go home now because they are taking our jobs. They don’t need these people anymore. Everyone is saying, ‘We are full here’. Zuma has condemned the attacks. Southern African Migration Project (SAMP), said surveys in 1997 and 2006 showed South Africa to be one of the least tolerant nations of migrants in the world.
-DR. NAVRAJ SINGH SANDHU, firstname.lastname@example.org