SINCE the end of South Africa’s apartheid system in 1994, there have been at least 569 incidents of xenophobic violence in the country. Of these, 529, recorded up till December 2018, led to 309 deaths, 901 physical assaults, 2,193 looted shops, and over 100,000 people displaced.
This is according to a report released by Xenowatch in December 2018. Xenowatch is an open-source tool developed by the University of Witwatersrand’s African Centre for Migration & Society (AMCS) for monitoring xenophobic threats and violence in South Africa.
Xenowatch, however, warned that these figures may be inexhaustive and an underrepresentation of the true extent of the problem because “many violence incidents are not reported and therefore not recorded on Xenowatch”.
“Many more [violent incidents] are suspected to have occurred since 1994,” it was noted. “Such an undercount is not uncommon with crime statistics related to vulnerable populations such as migrants”.
It is difficult to get more accurate figures as the government of South Africa does not gather data on threats and attacks against migrants.
Xenophobic attacks, which Xenowatch says are “a perennial feature in post-Apartheid South Africa”, manifest especially as homicides, assaults, robberies, looting, arsons, displacements, and threats of violence.
“Hostility towards foreign nationals is still pervasive and remains a serious threat to outsiders’ and local communities’ lives and livelihoods,” it states.
Xenowatch’s 2018 report does not take into account the casualties in the latest wave of violent attacks. Earlier in September, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed the death of 10 persons, including two foreigners, as a result of “acts of violence and criminality directed against foreign nationals and our own citizens” spanning several days.
“There can be no excuse for the attacks on the homes and businesses of foreign nationals, just as there can be no excuse for xenophobia or any other form of intolerance,” he said.
But many years of endless attacks and clear anti-foreigner sentiments show strongly that not all South Africans agree with Ramaphosa.
Only four days after the government’s release condemning the murder of 10, another two persons were killed and many others wounded in another bout of mob violence in Johannesburg.
Nigeria, one of the countries with most victims, has decided to evacuate hundreds of her nationals who are resident in South Africa and wish to return. 640 have already expressed their wish to move, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairwoman of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission, told CNN, adding that “there may be more people who want to leave”.
Over time, some communities appear to be more prone to xenophobic violence than others. A travel advisory issued by Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs last Wednesday warned citizens “to avoid travelling to high risk and volatile areas”, but did not specify what places to steer clear from.
Of all the 529 incidents recorded by Xenowatch as at last December, as many as 212 (40 per cent) took place in the Gauteng Province. Other identified “hot spot provinces” are Western Cape with 111 incidents (21 per cent), KwaZulu Natal (12.7 per cent), and Limpopo (7.6 per cent).
According to Statistics South Africa, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo have the highest shares of South Africans who are below the upper-bound poverty line, with 72.9 and 72.4 per cent respectively. Also, Black South Africans constitute the majority (64.2 per cent) of the poor population, followed by coloured people (41.3 per cent), Indians/Asians (5.9 per cent), and white nationals (1 per cent).
“The mapping of xenophobic violence incidents within police precincts across South Africa found the following precincts to experience the most reported xenophobic threats and violence in Gauteng: Hillbrow, Katlehong, Alexandra, Diepsloot, Atteridgeville, Mamelodi, Tembisa, Moroka, Jabulani, and Benoni,” states Xenowatch.
“In the Western Cape, the following precincts were found to experience the most reported xenophobic threats and violence: Khayelitsha, Milnerton, Philippi East, Nyanga, Brackenfell, and Mitchells Plain. reported xenophobic incidents.”
And in KwaZulu Natal, Durban Central, Kwa Mashu, Chatsworth, Umlazi, and Pietermaritzburg are the most volatile precincts.