South Africa Is Plagued By Xenophobia And Wide-Spread Violence

Recently, riots and looting have plagued the country of South Africa. Specifically in the cities of Soweto and Johannesburg, as well as their surrounding townships, rampant and violent looters have targeted shops owned by immigrants.

These xenophobically charged riots began last week after the shooting of a teenage boy by a Somali shop owner. According to the Africa Report, the boy attempted to steal from the shop when the owner allegedly shot and killed him. The shop owner has been scheduled to appear in court.

Regarding the death of the teenage boy and the heightened state of violence against immigrants in South Africa, per ABC News, Mohammed Hamid, an Ethiopian shop owner stated, “it was wrong, someone made a mistake… I’m scared, South Africa is a risk because so many people have guns.”

Hamid further alluded that the combination of the rising unemployment rate and the lack of government services make foreigners an easy target for South Africans who are in dire straights.

According to the LA Times, there have been six deaths due to the lootings, while 178 people have been arrested. Stores have been left in shambles, with broken doors, torn walls, and empty shelves. Aiding the tensions between native South Africans and immigrants, South African police have either stood back and watched or even participated in the lootings of foreign owned stores.

A local resident, Charlie Masondo, claims to have witnessed the participation of police officers who have even led the looting.

“I was expecting the cops to stop the looters from stealing, but they allowed and organized them to do it.”

The country of South Africa is no stranger to racial, ethnic, and class tensions. In that, there has been a backlash by the community at large to the lack of response by the South African government. The Consortium of Refugees and Migrants in South Africa has called “for urgent intervention from the Presidency, the Ministry of Police, the African National Congress (ANC) and leaders of other political parties to call on communities to desist from continuing with the rampant behavior.”

Phakamisa Ndzamela, a native South African and writer for Business Day, commented on the current state of the nation by exclaiming that South Africans have lost touch with their history and the fact that “many African countries offered South Africans jobs and even opportunities to do business when the situation was tough under apartheid.”

[Featured image courtesy of Stefan Heunis / AFP/Getty Images]