Unemployment fuels xenophobia in South Africa

The scarcity of jobs at the root of the anti-migrant climate that is shaking South Africa. The race for meager employment offered by the system is one of the factors behind the attacks on migrants in South Africa, said the president of a group of migrants living in the country.

Vusumuzi Sibanda was speaking after the looting and burning of shops, the vast majority of which are being operated by African migrant communities, in South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg.

The attacks sparked criticism from other African countries during the week in which political and economic leaders from at least 28 countries gathered in Cape Town for the African edition of the World Economic Forum.

Sibanda, who heads the African Diaspora Forum – created in response to previous xenophobic attacks – has criticized some politicians for allowing resentment between communities. He criticized the language used by the mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, speaking of the undocumented migrants.

“He says that it is the migrants who make his administration fail. At one point, he said we are selling cow heads, that they are bringing Ebola into the country,” Sibanda told BBC Newsday.

“When people attack migrants, they hide behind words, like ‘migrants are criminals’ – ‘they sell drugs’ or ‘engage in human trafficking’, and yet there is nothing to blame migrants for.”

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