OPINION: Xenophobia solution is in migrants’ home countries

Wednesday September 18 2019


By Peter Nyanje pnyanje@gmail.com

Xenophobic attacks in South Africa have taken a new turn following their intensification in recent weeks. Indeed, this is not the first time that such attacks have occurred in ‘Mandela country’ 25 years after the end of the segregationist apartheid system of government in 1994.

But if you revisit the country’s history, you will realise that attacks on people from other countries in South Africa has been recurring over the years. The only difference is that they had not been occurring at a high level in the past.

Each side of the conundrum has its set of reasons why such attacks have been continuing. If you ask the perpetrators of the attacks, they will tell you that they attack foreigners who engage in illegal drug trafficking and other crimes!

They argue that foreigners have been the reason why the crime rate has been increasing in South Africa.

But if you ask the victims, they will tell you that the indigenes are against foreigners because they take jobs from the locals. They will further tell you that South Africans do not want menial jobs – unlike foreigners, mostly from other African countries – who take up any job, as they come to South Africa to make money regardless, period!

They also deny involvement in illegal drug business as claimed by their ‘unwilling hosts.’


On the other hand, many people who have been looking at what’s happening in South Africa, especially from outside, believe that solution to this problem will come from South Africa. This might only be partly true. This problem will be solved if other countries will start to address it from their own countries, not South Africa.

Yes, there are some elements if politics in this issue; but, basically, this is a socio-economic issue.

Many young people have been leaving their countries and head for South Africa, legally and illegally, because they have been told that the country offers ample economic opportunities. And, true to the claims, foreigners who go there manage to establish themselves in businesses through dedication and hard work – albeit relatively in small businesses.

People from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Nigeria and other African countries go to South Africa because conditions in their mother-countries do not give them hope to prosper. They see South Africa as a land of milk and honey – which gives them hope of prosperity.

This is not a problem created by South Africa or its people.

This is similar to young people who leave their countries in North and West Africa and cross the dangerous Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe in search of greener pastures. You can’t blame Europe for these people when they drown.

If these countries had better economic and social plans for their people; if these countries had provided their people with opportunities to prosper in their own countries, no one would risk their life and limb in a xenophobic country where foreigners are attacked and killed, their homes ransacked. No one would risk life and limb crossing treacherous waters for Europe.

To a great extent, the solution to xenophobic attacks in South Africa lies within the countries where the victims come from. Therefore it is upon those countries to create socio-economic development opportunities that would enable their citizens to prosper in their own countries.

While countries and leaders condemn South Africa for what is happening there, they should also think inwardly. They should not only urge their people to return home; they should make sure that, when they return from South Africa (and Europe), they will not be tempted to leave their countries again in search of economic wellbeing elsewhere