SOUTH AFRICA: History fuels xenophobia

Antipathy towards foreigners who own spaza shops in Western Cape was due to the province’s long history of racial and class divisions.

 

This is according to Braam Hanekom, director of refugee NGO People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty. He was responding to a survey in which 48% of the respondents said foreigners should not be allowed to own spaza shops.

Last week there were attacks on more than 20 Somali- and Bangladeshi-owned spaza shops in Valhalla Park and Mitchells Plain, areas that previously had been free of xenophobic violence.

“Western Cape remains segregated; there remain serious problems between different communities. Western Cape has been the only province in which we have had the closest to what we can call racial violence in the past decade,” said Hanekom.

In this context, he said, the findings of the Pondering Panda survey of 5641 people on social networking site MXit, from June 28 to July 4, were not “surprising”.

“There is a very [wide] diversity of people here. There are many people who are very opposed to xenophobia and we are quite lucky not to have xenophobic violence leading to the displacement of large numbers of people.”

But Vincent Williams, director of the Southern African Migration Project, questioned the survey’s findings. He said his organisation’s research over 12 years had shown little differences in attitude between provinces.

“I would not expect Western Cape to be more xenophobic than Gauteng.”

South Africans across the country were almost equally split about the foreign ownership of spaza shops.

 

History fuels xenophobia

 

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