Rising Violence against Immigrants in South Africa

by Vins
Published: Updated:

In March 2017, Jean Pierre Misago reports for Al Jazeera that violence against immigrants has been on the rise in South Africa. The underlying cause of violence against immigrants is the combination of popular feelings of resentment towards immigrants and what Misago described as “a dreadful lack of competent, decisive and trusted leadership at all levels of government.”

Locals see immigrants as the main reason for all of their social and economic problems. They scapegoat immigrants for local issues such as poverty, unemployment, lack of business opportunity, diseases, and all forms of crime including prostitution and drug abuse. Citing a 2015 UNHCR report that he co-wrote, Misago reports that, “Since 1994, tens of thousands of people have been harassed, attacked or killed because of their status as outsiders or foreign nationals.” Attacks on immigrants include looting, injuries, threats, destruction of property, and even cases or murder.

Misago reports that many South African government officials downplay the violence as “just crime.” Instead, Misago writes, “The violence is xenophobic.” Foreign nationals and immigrants are being deliberately targeted as outsiders. Politicians fuel this animosity, Misago reports: “Political leaders and officials of the national, provincial and local government often blame foreign nationals for their systemic failures to deliver on the political promises.” At the same time, Misago writes, politicians fail to hold those responsible for violence against foreign nationals and immigrants accountable: “Instigators and perpetrators of xenophobic violence are well known in their respective communities, but the de facto impunity they enjoy only means that they are likely—as they have in many cases—to strike again.”

An April 2015 video report by BBC News addressed the issue of violence against immigrants in South Africa. The BBC video documented a march that protested foreigners thought to be taking over local businesses, but did not focus on what was actually happening to the foreigners.


Jean Pierre Misago, “Xenophobic Violence in the ‘Rainbow’ Nation,” Al Jazeera, March 1, 2017,

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/03/xenophobic-violence-rainbow-nation-170301075103169.html; republished as “South Africa: Targeting Immigrants, Again,” Africa Focus, March 6, 2017, http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/migr1703.php.

“Pretoria: Violence Erupts at Anti-Migrant Protest,” Al Jazeera, February 25, 2017, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/02/pretoria-violence-erupts-anti-migrant-protest-170224150723949.html.

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