The following is a short summary of the anti-immigrant violence happening in several cities and townships in South Africa. The Report is made by a member of First of May Anarchist Alliance currently living there.
Report by D.
It’s an unfortunate situation that’s having an impact on everybody here in Durban. Downtown has been a no go zone during the night, it has been the primary battleground between native South Africans and immigrants in the city. In response the ANC controlled government has organized nationwide counter demonstrations on Thursday that brought out tens of thousands of people, however on the following day more looting of immigrant shops was reported in Johannesburg.
Tension between indigenous South Africans (Zulu’s Xhosa’s etc.) and “foreigners” (Nigerians Ethiopians Somali’s etc.) has been bubbling for a quite a while. SA in particular has a long history Xenophobia that dates back to the days of apartheid and has even increased since its demise. The last big wave in 2008, left dozens dead and injured in Cape Town Durban and Johannesburg. Just last month there was a riot in Soweto where again foreign owned businesses were looted, though some dispute whether it was targeted or just a coincidence that they happened to be foreign.
The direct cause for the current crisis is being squarely blamed on the Zulu king’s recent statement on how foreigners should “take their bags and go” though it’s not entirely clear if this is the only cause. There was also a labor incident in a township close to Durban called Isipingo, which has been another flashpoint for anti immigrant violence. The situation there reportedly spiraled out of control when foreign workers crossed a picket line and scabbed on the union. Needless to say there appear to be many different issues behind this, but they all seem to have a common reference point in the fact that more and more south Africans are finding it extremely difficult to live in this society.
Zuma and friends in the parliament have responded by arguing for more clampdowns on illegal immigration but little else has been offered as a solution. This is probably because many of the people who support Zuma are also anti illegal immigration and some have probably themselves engaged in the rioting. Therefore I assume their response will nothing more than the typical romantic words about the “rainbow nation” and a more heavy-handed policy on immigration.
But of course the most awful part about this is that most of the looting victims are poor displaced blacks from other African countries There is massive theft of the people happening at the hands of foreign billions dollar corporations like Woolworths and Monsanto yet their businesses have been left completely unscathed. What is happening is ultimately another unfortunate side effect of capitalism where 90% are forced to fight over the 10% that’s left. In a country where the unemployment rate is somewhere close to 25% this should be of no surprise. The people are expressing righteous anger but focusing it in the wrong direction.
It’s worth mentioning that many Zulu’s are against the xenophobic wave of frustration and many foreigners rather than leaving has responded by defending themselves in the streets which is unfortunate yet necessary in these conditions. I know of an Ethiopian family who has had to close down one of their shop and one who was recently stabbed though I’m not sure if the stabbing was connected to the attacks it could have just been another mugging but regardless I can understand the need for self defense right now. Now Boko Haram is threatening to enter the arena if SA doesn’t solve the crises before tomorrow. Only time will tell whether they are serious.
In short these events are having an effect on everybody in different ways. Their anger is righteous but ultimately it will only serve further divide society along artificial ethnic lines. It serves as a reminder to revolutionaries of the necessity to dismantle capitalism and the state that supports it ASAP. The government has proven it has no interest in “fixing” anything it will only attempt to take advantage to gain more power as it has always done. We must make clear not only who the real enemy is but also our allies in a fight that will determine and have consequences not only in this society but the world.