A project of the Center for Community Change

Immigrants as Scapegoats for South Africa Violence

A man destroys a shack to stop the spread of a fire in Ramaphosa, near Johannesburg where at least 6 immigrants have been murdered.Stories continue to surface about the recent rash of South Africans’ horrific violence towards immigrants, which has left 42 people dead since May 11. The country suffers an extremely high rate of unemployment (roughly 25%) and citizens have begun to take out their frustrations on immigrants and a few South African ethnic groups.

The majority of immigrants in South Africa come from neighboring Zimbabwe, which has suffered from a decade of economic problems and political violence. Zimbabweans come to South Africa in hopes of a better life. They are instead met with brutal scapegoating.

In an article from Bloomberg, one youth even describes tactics for searching out foreigners.

“It’s war I tell you; it’s South Africa versus Maputo,” Wandile Langa, a 20-year old South African, told the Mail & Guardian, referring to the capital of Mozambique. Langa told the Johannesburg-based newspaper that he roams the streets of the Ramaphosa shanty town, southeast of South Africa’s biggest city, trying to identify foreigners.

“We just ask them Zulu words that any South African knows,” Langa said. “If they get it wrong, we hit them.”

Whether in the United States or in South Africa, we must stop the scapegoating of and violence against immigrants.

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