Xenophobia uptick contrived: Experts

Review & Mail Writers

The proliferation of vigilante groups in South Africa is a well-choreographed and curated agenda to scapegoat migrants for the economic crisis in that country and other social ills, the African Diaspora Workers Network (ADWN) has said.

ADWN brings together a global network of Africans and friends of Africa connecting entrepreneurs, investors, academics, and leaders of non-profit organisations, corporations, and official development agencies to learn, engage, and co-create possibilities.

The network said in a statement last week that there was overwhelming evidence to show that authors of xenophobic attacks often advanced the rhetoric that migrants contributed to high levels of crime.

“Political posturing has increasingly become an incipient but important driving force of this phenomenon,” it said.

The statement comes in the wake of a surge in xenophobic attacks by South African nationals targeting African migrants accused of taking their jobs.

Zimbabwean Elvis Nyathi was burnt to death by a violent mob in Diepsloot, North of Johannesburg, in one such incident that has attracted widespread condemnation from across the continent and abroad.

But ADWN said in a statement that the economic challenges and social ills that were rife in South Africa were not the making of immigrant workers.

It said testimonies by Nyathi’s family had demystified the myth that foreigners were responsible for the high unemployment of locals and the high crime rates in South Africa.

“According to recent employment data released in March 2022 by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), there is a sharp upsurge in the national unemployment rate in general, from 34, 9% in the third quantile of 2021 to 35.3% in the fourth quantile. Moreover, the youth unemployment lurches at 65.5%.

This is a structural problem which emanates from neoliberal capitalist economic policies, as opposed to the presence of migrant labour.

 A 2012-2014 study by the Migrating for Work Research Consortium (MiWORC), African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) at the University of the Witwatersrand found out that only “4% of people of working age (15 years to 64 years) across the whole of South Africa were born outside SA”.

ADWN said given the low velocity of work in which permit applications were processed and the fact that no other special regularisation permits were pronounced since the granting of the Lesotho Exemption Permit (LEP) in 2017, this figure could not be anywhere near 10% in 2022.

“It is also critical to point out that the majority of migrants are employed in precarious jobs that fall within the vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, domestic, construction and hospitality,”.

The network said the proliferation of vigilante groups and xenophobic attacks, which had resulted in loss of lives, injuries and displacements, were as a result of a well-thought-out operation, as the perpetrators publicly announced that they were to embark on a door-to-door exercise to ‘uproot’ allegedly undocumented African immigrants in their neighbourhood.

The network said the late Nyathi had been attacked and killed for merely being ‘from another country’, which it said was premised on illogical colonial borders.

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