For the past week, the whole world has watched in horror as the Xenophobic attacks surged through the townships of Durban and Johannesburg, and the rest of the country waited, in fear, wondering if the madness would spread. The senseless violence targeted innocent Africans, many originating from the countries that supported South Africa during the Apartheid; countries that sheltered the exiled leaders, and that lost many of their own people in the process. While Xenophobia has always played a part in South Africa, it comes as a shock when people turn on their own African counterparts. Years of unemployment and poverty combined with ignorance and desperation have left many feeling like Xenophobic attacks are the only way to find some respite.
Foreign nationals have suffered multiple attacks and been forced from their homes, having their shops looted and burned. In the wake of the attacks, a reported six people were left dead, and over 100 have been arrested for participating in the atrocities. Chaos reigned in Jeppestown, and Alexandra, resulting in many foreign nationals losing faith in the South African justice system, as well as the police force, who were accused of not doing enough to protect the foreigners. The power of SAPS was severely tested as the situation escalated, and finally the SADF were brought in to restore order. The army carried out raids on many of the hostels in Alexandra, and it seems the violence has finally dissipated. There has been much criticism about the army not being deployed sooner, and it does indeed seem to be too little, too late. The damage has been done and the ripple effect is evident.
Following Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini’s, public statement that foreigners were encouraged to pack up and leave, anger among the locals in the townships rose to a crescendo. Foreigners were accused of taking South Africans’ jobs, and South African women, leaving more and more South Africans jobless and destitute. While this situation is more recognisable in the townships, the violent attempt to annihilate all foreigners is unforgivable. It has caused a strong reaction all over the world, and the negative impact on South Africa has become obvious.
Many outraged Africans have retaliated against South African citizens in their own countries, resulting in huge blows to the South African economy, as well as its links to other countries. South Africans, in countries all over Africa, have been evacuated in fear of retaliation, with the first to go being those in Mozambique, where Sasol, a major contributor to the South African economy halted its operations on a new project. South Africans were warned to not drive across the border between Mozambique and South Africa, especially in a South African licenced vehicle, following protests against Xenophobia. This was emphasised when a South African truck driver was forced to turn back when his truck was pelted with stones a short way from the South African border post.
Even more concerning were the reports of threats received from Nigerian terrorist group, Boko Haram, and Somalia-based al-Shabaab. Both supposed threats relayed that many South African’s would pay the price if the killing did not stop. While many South African businesses in Nigeria are protected by the Government, there have been evacuations. The disruption did not stop with South African businesses. Many music artists have had performances cancelled in various countries. Kwaito group, Big Nuz, and rapper, Cassper Nyovest, have received threats of boycotts and violence from Zimbabwean nationals, in light of their upcoming performances in the country. Big Nuz has since cancelled, while Nyovest insists on continuing with the gig. The threats are not confined to African countries. Afro-pop singer, Kelly Khumalo, has been forced to cancel two of her upcoming performances in London after receiving threats to disrupt her performances over the Xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Hospitals in Botswana have even halted patient referrals to South Africa in light of the attacks. Most recently, the UK, China, and Australia have issued a cautionary warning to South African travellers, and it works the other way as well. Many potential tourists to South Africa will be deterred by the violence; a major negative due to the fact that the tourism industry plays such a big role in the South African economy.
These incidences are only the beginning, as the world watches, in disgust, as the situation continues to unfold. Business disruption will make a dent in the South African economy, even more so as it intersects with the current load shedding crisis. Not only that, but our international relations are under major strain, as South Africa has been put under a negative spotlight several times in the recent past. While it has been reported that the army has restored some sense of order, if the situation is not addressed properly by the South African government, it is predicted that it will only worsen, crippling South Africa in many areas.