South
African
Sociological
Association

SASA is committed to a democratic South Africa,

where all enjoy economic, political and social justice
and freedom from all forms of discrimination on the basis of religion, nationality, race and gender.

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Committed to the development of a vibrant social science community in Southern Africa.

SASA Statement on Xenophobia

SASA STATEMENT ON XENOPHOBIA

The South African Sociological Association is concerned about the increasing xenophobia in South Africa. Organized groups are brazenly involved in episodes of violence, threats and verbal abuse directed at African people who are accused of not being born in South Africa. It is shocking and outrageous to see people ridiculing, intimidating and attacking other human beings because they are perceived to be ‘foreign nationals’ that must be driven out of the country. Of further concern is the use of anti-immigrant vitriol by some political parties as part of their campaigning strategy in the 2021 local government elections. A group called Put South Africa First marched against the renewal of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit. Its members denied that their action was xenophobic while calling for the ejection of ‘foreigners’ out of the country. Operation Dudula members attacked street traders calling them foreigners and marched to workplaces demanding that only South African-born workers should be employed. Their so-called anti-crime vigilante action is based on a spurious association of criminality with foreign nationality.

A DANGEROUS BLAME GAME

South Africa was recently declared the most unequal society by the World Bank. There are unacceptable and potentially explosive rising levels of poverty and unemployment in this middle-income capitalist society. This was evident in the attacks on the shopping malls that took place in July 2021 that saw more than 350 people die and hundreds of business establishments looted and vandalized. The political and business leadership in the country is duty-bound to address these problems including the social tensions generated. Civil society including trade unions and social movement must get involved. There is a need to reflect upon and address the root causes of the socioeconomic and political crisis in the country including on the African continent and the world. Instead, there is resort to political shortcuts that involve Africans and working-class people dividing and blaming each other for the capitalist crisis. This response is not unique to South Africa as can be seen in the rise of right-wing and often racist anti-immigrant political movements in other parts of the world that spread fear, hatred, division, intolerance and misery through inciting acts of violence against the most vulnerable sectors of society.

VIOLENCE BEGETS VIOLENCE

The path South Africa appears to be taking can only lead to disaster and ultimately devastation. The South African government is playing with fire in ignoring the threat of xenophobia to social cohesion, economic prosperity and political stability. It is making matters worse when it engages in barely disguised institutional xenophobia as reflected in its non-renewal of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit, its slowness to open its refugee reception centres, and its inertia in eradicating corruption in the Department of Home Affairs and compelling officials to conscientiously process the applications of asylum seekers, refugees and permit holders after the Covid-19 disruptions. South African and other African government leaders must change the policies that perpetuate the concentration of wealth among the few and consign the majority to poverty and destitution. Postcolonial societies must fashion alternative paths of socioeconomic development that overcome the colonial legacy and arrest the continuities of oppression and exploitation. The working classes and the poor must become part of a movement that campaigns for the redistribution of wealth rather than fight each other. The retreat from the vision of Pan-African and international solidarity does not augur well for the future of this country and of the continent. The door is being opened for political opportunists to attempt to advance their personal and class interests through the myopic strategy of fueling xenophobic division and inciting violence. Let us join hands and fight against xenophobia in all its forms.

Issued by the Council of the South Africa Sociological Association

Date: 7 April 2022

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