20 March 2019

South Africa: Xenophobia Does Not Belong in South Africa

Photo: Musa Binda/GroundUp
Scores of people, mostly from Malawi, sleeping outside in Sydenham.
analysis

The 2019 elections have brought with them a resurgence of nationalistic populism. Politicians should quell rather than stoke this rhetoric - for everyone's sake.

Political parties blame foreign nationals for the country's struggles with safety, housing, unemployment, health care and education. Parties that claim to reject anti-immigrant sentiments have remained conspicuously silent in the aftermath of xenophobic violence. Some politicians have gone so far as to call for the removal of all foreign nationals.

These political actions are as impractical as they are ill-advised.

Arresting immigrants en masse will not assuage crime. In 2015, government de facto tested this technique through Operation Fiela. Tens of thousands of people were arrested in the aftermath of this directive. A disproportionate number of raids took place in immigrant strongholds. Yet crime rates rose in the year following this operation's inception. If police were effectively arresting the perpetrators of violent crime, presumably crime rates would be decreasing instead. Targeted arresting of immigrants is not evidence-based policy. It will not mitigate crime. Instead of trying to address an unsubstantiated immigrant threat, the country could remain critical of police exploitation of, and perpetration of violent crimes against, African migrants living in South Africa.

South Africa is...

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