|| Xenophobia in Isipingo, 7 April
|Speakers: China Ngubane and Jean-Pierre Lukamba
Date: 7 April 2015
Venue: CCS Seminar Room 602, 6th Floor, MTB Tower, Howard College, UKZN
Black Easter in Durban: Isipingo’s xenophobia
By China Ngubane, UKZN Centre for Civil Society (Dennis Brutus Community Scholars programme) – reporting on events from 31 March through 6 April in Isipingo, Durban
Whether organised or random, xenophobic attacks against Black African migrant nationals in Isipingo during the past week were not new, but represent an ongoing crisis for immigrants. In 2014, salons run by foreign nationals were looted and destroyed, replaced by local street businesses. Though the press did not cover the stories, some people were shot dead. Even if cases were opened with the police, no justice resulted. No one was arrested. And no preventive measures were taken.
On Tuesday the 31st of March, I received a call from Daniel Dunia, who runs a computer repairs and sales shop in Isipingo. Dunia is also a leader of the African Solidarity Network (Asonet). He told me he was in the shop at around 10am on Monday morning: “I saw people beating the boys that run a barber shop in Jadward Street. They beat them and looted from the saloons; they took the mirrors, scissors, tents, and everything else. When I came out I saw my fellow African brothers running away. As I went closer I heard people saying “bashaye” (beat them).. “Tthe king (Goodwill Zwelithini) said we must hit them.”
Dunia said at the beginning the attackers numbered less than two dozen, but the more the mob progressed, the more the numbers grew. They were only men. “I followed them until they arrived near PEP Store where they broke into another salon. They broke the door, they took all the equipment including hair products, and they beat the salon owner.”
This is when the police arrived, but there were only two police. Dunia continued:
“At the same time I received a call that they (locals) are breaking another salon again. We rushed to the police van in the vicinity and luckily the Station Commander was also there. I asked what could be done, and he said close all the shops and the salons for today. As we were talking with the police the mob went a few metres away, and started to break into our computer shops even though they were already closed. As our brothers started running away the mob started throwing stones and beating them. This took quite a while. Zulus were screaming: go away Kwerekweres, our King said you must go! Voetsek!, Shaya! Vimba!”
Indeed King Goodwill Zwelithini had the prior week given a ‘Moral Regeneration’ speech and amongst his words were attacks on immigrant workers: “When foreigners look at them [local South Africans], they will say: ‘Let us exploit the nation of fools.’ You find their unpleasant goods hanging all over our shops, they soil our streets. We cannot even recognise which shop is which, there are foreigners everywhere… We ask foreign nationals to pack their belongings and go back to their countries.”
Once police arrived, according to Dunia,
“We thought they were going to stop people from looting shops and beating people. Because all this happened close to a taxi rank, a big crowd was suddenly visible attacking migrant nationals. Taxi drivers also joined the attacks; it was shocking that all this was happening while police were there, but they could not arrest even a single person. The police were powerless, all they did was to shout from afar, hey stop-stop! When people finished looting, police said they can escort us to the police station for safety. As we came here locals now had all the freedom to break into the closed shops; we received phone calls that our shops were being looted. We told the police commissioner that people are looting our shops, and he said there is nothing they could do because they were understaffed. They tried to help but it wasn’t much.”
Later that evening, said Dunia,
“We started to see Somalian people coming here running. They were attacked and their shops were looted and burnt at Malukazi, about three kilometres from Isipingo. After attacking shops the mob spread into the streets and houses where they beat every migrant national, damage and loot property. The nationalities affected and currently at the Police Station are Burundians, Mozambicans, Tanzanians, Congolese, Ugandans, Malawians, Somalians and Ethiopians.”
According to Samuel, a refugee from the DRC, “They beat me in my house near Folweni taxi rank and took everything away.” Ksai Ruvinga, who also runs a salon in the RedBro Building in Isipingo, saw people coming towards his shop, but he managed to escape and ran away with his wife and other workers, and luckily his kids were at the crèche. Ruvinga’s employees (locals) were never touched, as looters simply took some of the equipment such as driers and they left. “My shop is located between a Chinese, Indian and a Pakistan, I am wondering why they only targeted me,” he said. According to Ruvinga, a local Zulu guy well known as a friend to some migrant nationals was almost attacked because the mob thought he was not from South Africa.
According to another Congolese immigrant, Kabango Ocean, “I was hit by a big stone on the head on Monday around noon. So far I am one of the few who was allowed to file an affidavit and to open a case.” His compatriot Labwe had his shop looted in Alexandra Road and reported that nothing was left. “Our major need is security. Being located somewhere else will not help because we left our belongings. We need tight security so that we can go back to our work.”.
Ruvinga said the challenges now facing the newly displaced migrants at the police station were the limited sanitary facilities. “It is hard especially with children crying.” But he appreciated that Isipingo police were quite helpful in making sure that people get enough food. It was heart-breaking to see Ruvinga’s daughter crying for something to eat. Due to fear it was even a challenge for Ruvinga to go and buy something for her at the nearby shop outside the police station. Ruvinga continued,
“There were a series of meetings with authorities and police. They proposed that they will take our children and wives to a safe place. We did not agree to that because firstly all of us – women, children and men – need safety. Secondly, we did not know where they were going to keep our children and women. Today we see some improvement because there is food coming. The other challenge is accommodation. Also they don’t allow everyone to make an affidavit, and they only allow those that are seriously injured to do so. Everyone has a problem in Isipingo, we don’t only lose property or a place to stay. Some lost their documents and it is not fair to allow only seriously injured people. Proper food, medication, women’s sanitary material and child support were among other needs.”
Another immigrant, Maison, was also a victim:
“Zulus are saying people from Congo are taking their places. Zulus are jealous. They think we have a lot of money, and that Zulus are working for us. Three boys aged between eleven and fifteen say they cannot go to school, and they have been facing this. Teachers treat migrant students as outcasts. We are always told hey Kwerekwere you must go outside. We don’t need you in the class at Plattdrive School. We thank the government of this country for keeping us in here, they really helped us, but some of the people in this country are very bad. But people from Mozambique, Malawi and DRC never attack one another, it’s only South Africans attacking other blacks.”
Philomena, also from the DRC, received a beating, and still has bruises from when she was trying to run away with her two children. The mob almost caught her by Isipingo taxi rank. “Our children are traumatised and they are crying, for the past two and a half days people share same toilets with police officials, sleeping on open ground with no blankets, with traumatised children.” As she talked, a pregnant woman lay on the ground nearby, bleeding. Police soon intervened and she was taken to hospital.
On Wednesday the 1st of April a meeting was held with eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo and the provincial Member of the Executive Council for Safety, Willies Mchunu. They welcomed all including migrant representatives. Among other officials present were General Ciliza (Isipingo Police SAPS), Dr Musa Gumede (Deputy City Manager for Community and Emergency Services), Councillors, officials from government in the province and Metro Police. For some of us it was really heartening to see the Mayor deeply involved and concerned about the crisis. One could witness his tireless efforts in engaging all stakeholders and himself being visible in the scene until late hours
The meeting was to give feedback about the ongoing discussions on this regard. He indicated that there has been a series of meetings to make sure that we deal with this matter and see how best we can find recommendations. The Mayor welcomed any information that may arise from the report. The way forward proposed by the Mayor and the MEC included four main areas to assist in addressing the current challenges:
• All arms of the government will have to discharge their various responsibilities. This is so that we can proceed in a manner that is in compliance with International Law. We need to conclude a verification process, which is the responsibility of the department of Home Affairs, to verify with the people that have been displaced, so that the assistance to be provided to them is contacted within the parameters of the South African Law. The Mayor will work very closely with the Home Affairs to ensure that the process is undertaken and concluded as required.
• The Mayor and the MEC recognised that the current state of the groups’ presence in the police station premises does not allow the normal functioning of the police to continue. The municipality will look at a site for temporary accommodation and accommodate members who have been displaced. The accommodation will cater for females and children in one structure and for males in another. Toilets, bins for waste collection, water to drink and wash, and electricity will be supplied.
• Food (raw and cooked) will be supplied by municipal supporters as short term solution to deal with the immediate situation.
• A broader community will gather to begin persuading an integrative process so that victims could resume normal life, so that kids can go back to school and home where they will play with their normal friends; so that women can go back and run their normal lives and men can go and run their normal businesses. The consultation process will require the affected members of the community (both South African and non-South African) and the employer (where the whole matter started). The mayor said we all desire that you are reintegrated back to your communities.
The Mayor acknowledged that we are dealing with a crisis and that the municipality is not responsible for the way the crisis has been started. He said by the end of the day Government and the Municipality have the responsibility to ensure that we arrest the situation, ensure that we save lives, and make sure that we keep people in safety. The Mayor also said that we need to work together and he requested respect and co-corporation from all parties involved. He also emphasised that even our attitudes counts since we are dealing with such a serious crisis, and reminded that we have one particular objective to make sure that we normalise the situation and that there is no loss of property. We will not allow any misbehaving from anyone whether South African or non-South African. “What binds us is that we are all human beings, and we are all Africans. We must ensure that we meet one another in finding solutions” he said.
The Mayor said we need to know who and how many people we are dealing with.
“We don’t want to find ourselves ending up with people who were not affected. That is why the registration of the affected people becomes important so we will be in control of the situation. It’s unfortunate that this is happening at a time we are approaching Easter Weekend; most of the churches are not available and all community halls are booked hence the only option available will be to provide marquees for males and for women. We do this even for our own people, for instance when there is fire in the informal settlements. We want to make sure that we talk with the people so that we can start the integration process. For now we cannot say go back because it is not safe to go there, and there will be a time when we feel it’s now safe for people to go there. We did this when the same happened in 2008 and we believe we can still do it through a process of normalisation. We do welcome all donations from all organisations and NGOs. And thus a secured site that is fenced will be provided and there will be controlled access to the site. SAPS and Metro Police will provide a 24 hour protection there until the situation gets better. There will be patrols by police.”
Dunia thanked the Mayor and the Police for their intervention and support at the police station. He suggested that the verification process was not relevant at the moment:
“We feel that what is needed is the help of the affected people and verification may follow afterwards. All of the people here came running from their places, and they have lost not only their property but also their documents. Even the so called illegal immigrants should be protected while they are here because the situation is not good out there. We also appreciate the provision of marquees and security. However the problem is that there are only a few Police and they are not able to control the situation. This is what happened even when this started, we are worried that if just 100 people come to attack us the police will not be able to control the situation. Even the fence will not help because they come with destructive tools. They were able to break into our shops even if they were closed and they can still throw stones at the marquees.”
Dunia requested to speed up the process because the affected are paying rent:
“This is month end and our landlords are waiting for their money. Because we are not working it is going to be very difficult for us to pay our rents. If we don’t pay the rent, we will find our things thrown out and we will be left with no home or business.”
Ahmed, an immigrant from Ethiopia, said the attacks are continuing, and his father was attacked as he tried to open the AAJ Cash and Carry shop in Isipingo. Looting followed:
“Even if we close the shops and our houses they still come and break in and loot. As we are here, what can we do to ensure that our things are safe?” He added that the issue of verification by the Department of Home Affairs is problematic because the number of victims at the police station is increasing every day. “Either due to fear or attacks victims are still coming from places such as Malakhazi and Umlazi” he said. On Tuesday night there were between 400 - 500 people. Salima, a victim from the DRC, asked how their belongings would be taken to the camp site.
General Ciliza emphasised the issue of attitude and co-operation. He said the shop was looted because the situation was still tense. It is important to wait until the situation is conducive. Ciliza advised people not take risks, and encouraged everyone to convey this massage to affected colleagues. The verification is going to be checking the status of people in South Africa. If a person is found to be illegal, another process will kick them out, he said.
Dr Gumede briefed the crowd that they are still dealing with other logistical issues and that a site was found that it is sufficiently secure. ”As a government we cannot overrule some laws. We want to help everyone, but when we help, we help within the law; that is why it is important for us to understand that the verification process should be done whether it happens now or later.”
Friday the 3rd of April marked a Black Easter for migrants as they were moved from the police station. Victims were first placed at Isipingo beach grounds during the afternoon in marquees. According to another immigrant, Samson Makwinja from Malawi,
“South Africans are angry because we are taking their jobs and we accept little money. One cannot buy life, we only live once, we cannot compromise our lives, we want to go back home. We are happy that our Malawian Ambassador in SA arrived here today, and we told him that we want to go home.”
From the DRC, Coco Bishongo, complained that the new camp was not good for women and children. “For the past four days at the police station we had no bath. It is also a similar situation here that there are no bathing facilities. Women and children are also sharing toilets with men.” Coco said she wished that if there were to be taken somewhere where it is safe, outside South Africa, “We rather go. We are tired of being treated like this.” Although food was provided at the Isipingo Beach site, some were not happy about the quality of food and the small portions. But this was rectified by the following day.
On the 5th of April, Minister of Home Affairs Melusi Gigaba arrived at the scene with his team for the verification process. According to Diaku Dianzenza, Chairperson of the African Solidarity Network, “We are pleased about the great developments that Minister Gigaba is willing to work with migrant communities on a long term basis. The verification process was suspended; the reason being, that it will look like victimising people who are in a situation of disaster.”
But on April 6, a group of workers were warned of possible new attacks in Kernville. Workers, among them migrant nationals, were almost attacked by a mob from Thuthukani shack settlement. Even though the victims managed to escape before the mob drew closer, there were strong warnings that there will be attacks after Easter holidays. Messages mobilising South Africans to kill all foreigners have been going around since last Friday. This is going to start as a march organised for migrants on Wednesday at Botha’s gardens near the Market in Durban. However migrant networks said in an interview that they are not part of that march. Some said they fear that this might have been organised by people who are circulating the message to kill foreigners on Wednesday.
King Goodwill Zwelithini’s speech, translated by the Sunday Times (5 April 2015)
Both King Dinizulu and King Cetshwayo were arrested for fighting for our country’s freedom . . . but when we talk of South Africans in 2015 we talk of people who do not want to listen, who do not want to work, who are thieves, child rapists and housebreakers. People who are lazy and who do not want to plough the fields.
When foreigners look at them, they will say: ‘Let us exploit the nation of fools.’ You find their unpleasant goods hanging all over our shops, they soil our streets. We cannot even recognise which shop is which, there are foreigners everywhere.
I know it is hard for other politicians to challenge this, because they are after their votes. Please forgive me, but this is my responsibility, I must talk, I cannot wait for five years to do this.
As king of the Zulu nation, which is respected worldwide because of the role it played in fighting for freedom in Africa, I will not keep quiet when our country is led by people who have no opinion. It is time to say something.
I ask our government to help us fix our own problems, help us find our own solutions. It is time to take our blankets into the sun so that the fleas can come out.
We ask foreign nationals to pack their belongings and go back to their countries.
XENOPHOBIA IN SOUTH AFRICA
AFRICAN DIASPORA FORUM ( ADF ) – STATEMENT 3 April 2015
We, African Diaspora Forum ( ADF ), a federation of African Migrants community including some South Africans, working to foster Social cohesion in fighting Xenophobia, are very concerned about the ongoing Xenophobic attacks in South Africa and the statements made recently by some community leaders which fueled those attacks in some areas such as Kwazulu Natal.
It is regrettable that we are worried about incident of this nature a month before the Africa month, while we supposed to start thinking and planning on how to celebrate our unity in diversity. We are coming from far as African people, our history is made of slavery, colonialism, oppression and discrimination. This should inform the way we are paving our future aimed to promote human dignity.
We are urging:
- African Union;
• To include Xenophobia discussion part of the agenda of the upcoming 25th AU Summit which will be held in South Africa in July this year
- South Africa Government:
• To condemn boldly the xenophobic attacks and anyone making hate speech in public,
• To make sure all Migrants are well protected, especially those under international protection such refugees and Asylum Seekers
• To educate South Africans citizen about migration
• To foster actively the agenda of Social Cohesion
• The South African chapter 9 institutions should work with different communities in making sure that there is rule of laws, the respect of human right for all and any anyone should be accountable for wrong doing.
• To use all diplomatic means in making sure that their citizens are safe & well protected in South Africa.
• To actively work with South African government to prevent Xenophobia.
• To be more pro active in protecting Refugees and Asylum Seekers in using international instruments to implement the three sustainable solutions ( 1. Integration to the hosting country, 2. Voluntary repatriation to the country of origin and 3. Resettlement to a third country)
• To allocate significant recourses this will enable to address Xenophobia in South Africa.
• To embark on with sustained education campaign on Migration
• To come up with a networking and coordinated strategies and action to fight Xenophobia and to assist the Victims of Xenophobia
• Remain calm, vigilant, informed and organized in liaising with the community leaders and law
• To respect South African laws and regulations by all means
• To alert and report any xenophobic attacks to our Hotline ( 0842742844)
South Africans Citizen:
• To align themselves to the values of Pan Africanism, humanity/UBUNTU;
• To not identify themselves in following some irresponsible leaders who are using the ignorance of some people in the community to push their personal agenda
• To refrain from any Xenophobic attacks
• To raise community awareness about the positive contribution of a well managed migration system.
• To refrain in publishing Hate speeches aimed to break harmony in our society
• To promote tolerance, harmony and peace in their different congregations.
• To be the leaders of their different communities in working to foster Social Cohesion
• To unite the community in aligning them to our African values of UBUNTU. They are the custodians of our African values, culture and traditions.
• The department of education should come up with a curriculum which will educate our kids about good morale and family values, African history and to be responsible and active citizens.
For more info contact: email@example.com 011 487 0269
After working hours:
Marc Gbaffou 083 514 7367 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or
Jean-Pierre A. Lukamba 0838751256 ( email@example.com )
Jean-Pierre A. Lukamba Om.
AFRICAN DIASPORA FORUM: Deputy Chairman
REFUGEE HELP DESK: Chairperson
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: WG Member
Tel: +27 11 487 0269
Cel. +27 83 875 1256
Fax No.: +27 86 766 2227
Our website :www.adf.org.za
If We don't stand for something, We may fall for anything. Malcom X
Peace and stability in Africa could reduce forced Migration
Jean-Pierre A. Lukamba, African Diaspora Forum Tuesday 3 July 2012
Jean-Pierre A. Lukamba is the Vice Chairman of the African Diaspora Forum and The Chairperson of the Refugee Help Desk(SABC)
A lot of forced migration in Africa is direct result of political turmoil, lack of democracy, repression and Human right violations. For instance, over 5 million Mozambican nationals left their country during the civil war in the 1980s.
So did Angolans during the civil war. More than 4 million Zimbabweans migrated to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Europe, Australia and other countries as a result of political and economic crises, particularly between 2000 and 2009. Similarly, migration by 8 million Congolese (DRC) people to other countries is clearly a result of conflict, human rights abuses, mismanagement of public resources, failing state and consequently the search for peace and livelihoods elsewhere.
Basotho left their country into South Africa during years of military rule in search of peace and employment opportunities in South Africa, particularly. Some black South Africans also migrated to countries such as Botswana, Zambia, Uganda, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, etc in search of better education during apartheid.
Lack of democracy, repression, abuse of power, poor governance and human rights violations result in undesirable movement of people and complicates the urge towards free movement of people and tolerance for Refuges. In order to achieve free movement of persons, Sadc needs to be firm and principled in its engagement with other member states.
For instance, Sadc should have been frank with Zimbabwe concerning the devastating impacts of failing to resolve internal political differences, violence against citizens, economic mismanagement and intolerance, among other things, to the region. The region should also be clear with Swaziland on the point that denial of citizens’ rights to participate in political processes is a time bomb for both the country and the region.
Unless Sadc insists that member states should adhere to good democratic governance and security standards, the region will suffer from undesirable migration
DRC also, among others, should appreciate the centrality of an effective state, peace and stability to regional integration and development. Consolidation of democracy, good governance, peace and stability should be a priority for all member states. Unless Sadc insists that member states should adhere to good democratic governance and security standards, the region will suffer from undesirable migration.
The resultant forced migration will breed xenophobia, strain bi-lateral relations and ultimately derail the drive towards free movement of persons and respect and tolerance for Refugees. Especially this month ANC policy conference will discuss among other things the National Immigration system, South Africa government - ANC should:
1. Recognised African Migrants as contributors to the national economy
2. Recognised African Migrants as self employed (i.e. not ‘stealing’ jobs but ‘creating’ jobs)
3. Recognised African Migrants as bringing business and other skills
4. Considered African Migrants as paying tax, i.e. contributing to state resources
5. Regulate the informal economy without destroying it; focus on micro-businesses making profit (taxation and formalisation, for SA and foreign owned businesses – no discrimination)
6. In collaboration with civil society, implementing of legislation, plans and directives which increase the prevention, investigation and prosecution of property destruction and crimes of violence against African Migrants.
7. The inter-ministerial committee should play a more active role, interacting with the different African communities. Assist in running integration projects (culture, education, business skills development and transfer, cooperatives…)
Jean-Pierre A. Lukamba is the Vice Chairman of the African Diaspora Forum and The Chairperson of the Refugee Help Desk
Xenophobia and Civil Society: Durban’s Structured Social Divisions
BARUTI AMISI, PATRICK BOND, NOKUTHULA CELE AND TREVOR NGWANE*
Politikon, April 2011
ABSTRACT: Xenophobia in Durban was of a lower intensity than SA’s other two main metropolises, Johannesburg and Cape Town, in the 2008-10 period, and yet was just as durable, with incidents continuing to reflect underlying social antagonism. The roots of the conflict are, we argue, to be found in the material processes of ‘uneven and combined development’ that are too rarely tackled in the public or policy spheres. These processes have been difficult for researchers and critical civil society forces to comprehend and counteract because they are structural in form. In the context of an overall economic crisis and rising inequality and urban poverty, these processes include a glutted labour market, housing shortages, township retail competition, highly-gendered cultural differences, and apparently intractable regional geopolitical tensions. These root-cause pressures continue – as will xenophobia – because short of a national political shift in power and interests, they are extremely difficult to resolve. As a result, civil society will continue band-aiding the problems when they surface as social crises, or be compelled to generate much more explicit politics of regional solidarity, including in Durban whose port and traditions of community politics already offer examples of the kinds of alliances required in future.
This chapter considers the general terrain of structural economic oppression and the specific problems associated with the rise, abatement and periodic upsurge of xenophobia from mid-2008 through mid-2010, using case studies from Durban to illustrate. Durban is the third most incident-prone site in South Africa, following the Gauteng megalopolis and the Cape Town metropolitan area. The national context is important. Overall, the May-June 2008 xenophobic violence - 62 people including 21 South Africans dead, 670 wounded, dozens of women raped, at least 100,000 people displaced, and property worth of millions of rand looted (Misago, Landau and Monson 2009, 7-12) – was followed by a period of latent hostility to immigrants, some of which manifested in attacks during ‘service delivery protests’ in small cities across the country, as well as an explicit January 2009 attack on a United Nations place of safety in Durban, and dozens more incidents (mostly in the Western Cape and Gauteng) immediately after the World Cup ended in July 2010. As confirmed by further site research in August 2010, anti-immigrant tensions remain severe in Durban, including in the police force where shakedowns of immigrants have been a cause of concern (Manzi 2010, Padayachee 2010, Zvavanhu 2010).
Xenophobia logically emerges under conditions of economic stress. As urban scholar David Harvey (1989, 13-14) put it, ‘The response is for each and every stratum in society to use whatever powers of domination it can command (money, political influence, even violence) to try to seal itself off (or seal off others judged undesirable) in fragments of space within which processes of reproduction of social distinctions can be jealously protected.’ If Harvey is correct as a general proposition, and if the South African economy has generated some of the world’s most severe stresses since the end of formal racial apartheid in 1994 - with a rising Gini coefficient (from .66 in 1993 to .70 in 2008), far higher unemployment (from a 16 percent official rate in 1994 up to 32 percent at peak in 2001 to 26 percent in 2010), and worsening urban poverty rates, according to the latest major survey from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (Leibbrandt et al 2010) – then we require a durable epistemology to uncover both ‘contingent’ (momentary, conjunctural) and the ‘necessary’ (theoretically-derived) processes within South African political economy that help us understand xenophobia under conditions of structural economic stress, so as to transcend it.
These structural forces do not excuse or cancel agency, including political leadership. After all, the first post-apartheid Home Affairs Minister, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, made the following claim (without supporting documents) to the National Parliament in 1997:
With an illegal population estimated at between 2.5 million and 5 million, it is obvious that the socio-economic resources of the country, which are under severe strain as it is, are further being burdened by the presence of illegal aliens… [citizens should] aid the Department and the South African Police Services in the detection, prosecution and removal of illegal aliens from the country… the cooperation of the community is required in the proper execution of the Department’s func¬tions (cited in Crush, 2008, 17-18).
Migration researchers Jean Pierre Misago, Loren Landau and Tamlyn Monon (2009, 7-12) contend that violence against [black] immigrants to South Africa has been a permanent attribute cross the apartheid and post-apartheid divide, where otherness/outsiderness, stereotypes, and structural exclusion prevent immigrants from exercising ‘political rights and rights to residence in the cities’. Durban geographer Brij Maharaj (2004, 2-3) argues that the ‘historical influx of migrants to South Africa has created a high proportion of rightless non-citizens, despite their length of residence which sometimes spans generations’.
The combination of immigrant rightlessness and structural exclusion, amidst a perceived invasion of immigrants, resulted in organised social activism against individuals perceived as dangerous to the socio-cultural and moral fabric. This is not uncommon, and is evident in problems faced by immigrants from Arizona to France. It is often perceived that immigrants to South Africa threaten scarce economic opportunities of poor and working-class people, within a system set up nearly a century and a half ago (in the diamond mines of Kimberley) by wealthy South Africans to superexploit migrant labour from both South Africa and the wider region.
What we require, therefore, is a framework to incorporate the flows of labour, the reproduction of labour in housing (especially during an unprecedented real estate bubble coinciding with a worsening housing shortage), the nature of extremely competitive retail trade in community reproduction, gender power delineations, regional geopolitics, and the consciousness that arises from these complicated, conflict-ridden socio-economic relations. That framework, which can be termed the ‘uneven and combined development’ of both economy and society (Bond 1999), will permit us to better consider the ways civil society organisations contest their compatriots’ xenophobic reactions, and yet in many cases fail to locate - or if they do, to conclusively address - the root causes of xenophobia in structural oppressions.
Structural forces and the power of civil society
A framework for considering xenophobia would take into account long-range economic and social processes that result in both extremely uneven capital accumulation patterns (favouring a few metropolitan areas but only in concentrated sites such as Central Business Districts, edge cities and low-density suburbs) and a combination of modern and pre-modern (or racist, ethnicist, patriarchal or otherwise superexploitative) social relations. The evidence of uneven and combined development in South Africa includes extreme and worsening inequality leading to accumulation in some areas, rising poverty in others, produced as a single system (not ‘two economies’ with distinct, unrelated components, as Mbeki and other modernisation theorists typically argued) (Maharaj, Desai and Bond 2010). This process entails not only uneven accumulation across space, but a ‘combined’ set of production and reproduction relations, articulated at different times with specific, contingent components, such as Bantustans as labour reserves drawing on patriarchal, precapitalist survival strategies in one era (through 1994), and an entire economically-liberalised region performing the same function in the next.
The numerous traditions of structuralist political economy in South Africa since ‘Colonialism of a Special Type’ a half-century ago were always infused with concern about uneven and combined interrelationships of class, race, geography and also, increasingly, gender and environment. They mainly came together in studies of superexploitative capital-labour relations that underpinned apartheid (e.g. Wolpe 1972, Legassick 1974, Saul and Gelb 1981, Gelb 1991). While fierce debates between radicals and liberals motivated 1960s-70s political economic studies, and while a variety of ‘neoMarxist’ theories were generated during the 1970s-90s, these matters go much further back as research problems. The origins of capitalism in Britain, after all, were in ‘primitive accumulation’: the initial strategy of dispossessing non-capitalist spheres of social life, most famously in land enclosures which forced peasants to proletarianise (Thompson 1963).
In Southern Africa, the use of political power to dispossess black people of their livelihoods, so as to compel them into wage labour relations, entailed durable extraeconomic, crudely racist methods which were not just a once-off initial condition for primitive accumulation. The coerced participation of young men from the region in South African labour markets continues to this day. Partial proletarianisation has resulted, with men reproduced in rural areas where women’s unpaid labour kept wages unusually low for the period men worked in the plantations, factories and mines. For many researchers during the late 20th century, the idea of superexploitation was helpful to explain an ongoing history of extremely biased accumulation, combining capitalism and non-capitalist sites of work, of life and of nature. Such uneven and combined development can be identified not solely on the basis of exploitation (surplus value extraction) at the point of production, but more broadly, in relations between market and non-market activities. It is here that enhanced ‘accumulation by dispossession’ (Harvey 2003), between capitalism and non-capitalist systems, is also of great relevance on the world stage today.
Methodologically, we tackle this explanatory challenge by considering uneven and combined development in employment markets, sites of labour reproduction (especially where this affects housing costs) and petty commodity distribution (township housing and retail trade), and in terms of regional geopolitics associated with the creation of refugees. Interviews with subjects help connect the dots between structure and agency in various case settings. Overall, the emphasis in our work is a search for power relationships that affect the consciousness of ordinary people, who express their frustrations with truncated liberation hopes for development, through xenophobia.
To illustrate, what is the main structural barrier faced in the labour markets? In the most recent contribution to the South African version of uneven and combined development, Samantha Ashman, Ben Fine and Susan Newman (2010) – rely for their analytical groundings on Fine and Rustomjee’s (1996) treatment of mining, energy and associated industries as a distinct power bloc:
Global accumulation and its shifts and restructuring are necessarily mediated by the structure of particular economies and forms of class rule. We characterize the system of accumulation in South Africa as a ‘Minerals-Energy Complex’ (MEC) where accumulation has been and remains dominated by and dependent upon a cluster of industries, heavily promoted by the state, around mining and energy - raw and semi-processed mineral products, gold, diamond, platinum and steel, coal, iron and aluminium. In the context of South African production, financialization has produced a particular combination of short-term capital inflows (accompanied by rising consumer debt largely spent on luxury items) and a massive long-term outflow of capital as major ‘domestic’ corporations have chosen offshore listing and to internationalize their operations while concentrating within South Africa on core profitable MEC sectors. The result, even before the impact of the current crisis, was a jobless form of growth and the persistence of mass poverty for the majority alongside rising living standards for a small minority, including new black elites.
In this context, xenophobia is one symptom of structural and human crises that are increasingly common in a society where migration for the mining industry established long-distance reproduction of labour power a century ago. Over time, accumulation crisis based on the MEC model in an era of financialisation generated a series of interlocking, overlapping market and state failures, including:
1. extremely high unemployment which exacerbates traditional and new migrancy patterns;
2. a tight housing market with residential stratification, exacerbating service delivery problems (water/sanitation, electricity and other municipal services);
3. extreme retail business competition;
4. world-leading crime rates;
5. Home Affairs Department corruption;
6. patriarchal processes and cultural conflicts; and
7. severe regional geopolitical stresses, particularly in relation to Zimbabwe and the Great Lakes region of Central Africa.
We recognise, especially, the need for further research regarding the material basis for intimate relationships between working-class men and women, a key component of uneven and combined development. To illustrate, on the ideological front, there is no doubt - given evidence from the Durban interviews - that patriarchal attitudes abound among both immigrant and South African born men. Women are assumed to ‘naturally’ do the unpaid domestic labour in working class male-headed households, in which men consider women as an asset or even private property. There is also the commonly-held view that men must attract or pursue women and that the wealthier a man is, the better his chances of ‘catching’ women and keeping them. The corollary to this is that if a man does not have enough money, women will find him less attractive. In a nutshell, in capitalist society, men are often assumed to be in competition for women; in relationships and in increasingly common transactional sex, their material possessions largely determine who comes out the winner (Hunter 2010).
It is this potent mix of structure and ideology in a context of an unequal and highly competitive regional labour market that fuels ‘masculine entitlements’ and violent competition between men, fighting over women that also contribute to xenophobic attacks. To this some gender activists add the role of the conservative ideology of ‘familism’ that can turn men into monsters in a context of the disempowerment many of them experience due to poverty, unemployment and a failure to see any way out of their sorry economic condition. The family remains the poor man’s last resort: it can provide him power and authority when no one else will.
Other structural factors in the regional labour market should also be considered, for they contribute to stress in everyday life: the HIV/AIDS pandemic (especially virulent in Durban); the prevalence of child labour; ongoing farm labour-tenant exploitation; low skills levels and inadequate training; rising privatisation pressures and controversies over other public sector restructuring measures; an emerging Export-Processing Zone threat (based on prototypes in Botswana; Lesotho and Swaziland) to occupational safety/health and wages, including sweatshop conditions in many KwaZulu-Natal factories; as well as the more recent threat from finance Minister Pravin Gordhan (2010) of a two-tier wage system which would generationally fragment South Africa’s already highly flexible labour market. Contrary to popular believe, even the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and International Monetary Fund (2010) consider South African workers to be the fourth least protected (in terms of job security) in the industrial world, after those in the US, Canada and Britain. These broader social concerns, and other reflections of daily struggle, benefit little from traditional ‘corporatist’ (big government + big business + big labour) relationships still favoured by some of the region’s union leaders, and proposed by SA Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel in late 2010.
South African public policy offers very few avenues out of this cul de sac, in spite of recent rhetoric regarding a ‘developmental state’ strategy (Maharaj, Desai and Bond, 2010). On the one hand, some commentators argued that sustained growth and political optimism lie ahead, as predictable macroeconomic policy and historically-high world commodity prices maintained confidence in post-liberation state management, even as the Mbeki-Manuel-Mboweni-Erwin team was replaced in 2008-09 by a nominally more social democratic group: Zuma-Gordhan-Marcus-Davies-Ebrahim. An ‘economic boom’ had been regularly proclaimed by observers such as the Financial Times (Russell, 2007a, 2007b; MacNamara, Russell and Wallis 2007), thanks to ‘macroeconomic stability’, GDP growth uninterrupted for more than a decade after 1998, and a substantial rise in exports.
Yet at the same time, South Africa continued to suffer severe economic imbalances (Bond 2005) and a dramatic increase in social unrest - with many thousands of protests per annum (Nqakula 2007) - presaging a deterioration of the integrity of liberal political institutions. Rights of media and access to information were threatened in 2010, for example. But more to the point, it was soon evident that the ‘service delivery protests’ especially evident in Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape could as easily be directed against fellow community residents – especially if they hailed from outside South Africa – as against the genuine sources of their problems (Ngwane 2010). Along with rising domestic violence and the AIDS pandemic, the xenophobia wave was perhaps the worst case of the tearing South African social fabric.
There were, in contrast, other more optimistic signs of social grievances channelled through policy advocacy, public conscientisation, international alliance-building and even the court system. These signs correspond to what Karl Polanyi (1956, 76) termed a ‘double movement’ in which, initially during the 19th century in Europe, ‘the extension of the market organisation in respect to genuine commodities was accompanied by its restriction’ as people defended their land, labour and other resources from excessive commodification. Certain areas were illustrative of great potential, such as the Treatment Action Campaign’s 1998-2008 street pressure and legal strategy of acquiring anti-retroviral drugs for HIV+ people; and Soweto activists’ protests which helped drive the controversial water privatiser Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux out of Johannesburg and whose Johannesburg High Court victory in April 2008 began undoing its commercialised water policies (notwithstanding a September 2009 Constitutional Court reversal). The question we pose is whether the mobilisation of civil society can be sufficiently visionary and powerful, so as to counteract society’s xenophobic tendencies.
Whether campaign-oriented or simply momentarily explosive in character, civil society activism was by all accounts a contributing factor in the 2007-08 transfer of power within the ANC, from the man favoured by local and global corporations and the prosperous classes (Mbeki) to the candidate of trade unions, the youth, organised ANC women and the SA Communist Party (Zuma). This latter group represented a ‘centre-left’, comprising the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu), SA Communist Party, SA National Civic Organisation, some churches and NGOs, ANC Youth League and ANC Women’s League. South Africa’s ‘independent left’, in contrast, is comprised of social and community movements, NGO critics, feminists, internationalists, environmentalists, some in the faith community, and others alienated by the ‘neoliberal’ (market-oriented) economic policies, cronyism, corruption and patriarchal nationalism that represent durable ideologies within the ruling party, including the Zuma camp. They are part of a ‘social justice’ tradition that arose across the world over the past decade and achieved prominence in contesting globalisation’s adverse impacts.
This context of structural crises and the uneven development of civil society meant no rest before, during and after the xenophobic attacks of May-June 2008. The challenge for progressive organisations across South Africa at that moment was to adequately direct social unrest and grievances into effective avenues. The state’s failure to assess the threat to immigrants has been the subject of extensive discussion, including concerns over Mbeki’s denialism as well as the hypothesis by then intelligence minister, Ronnie Kasrils, that a ‘Third Force’ comparable to early 1990s state divide-and-rule strategies was in play. There had been plenty of warning, including multiple reports of murders (especially targeting Somali trades) in Western and Eastern Cape townships, as well as police brutality and abuse at the Lindela repatriation centre outsourced by Home Affairs. More generally, a ‘FutureFact’ (Mail&Guardian 2008) survey asked South Africans if they agreed with this statement: ‘Most of the problems in South Africa are caused by illegal immigrants or foreigners.’ In 2006, ‘67 percent percent agreed, a substantial increase on a few years ago, when the figure was 47 percent. And it is reflected among all population sectors of the country. FutureFact also put this statement to respondents: ‘Immigrants are a threat to jobs for South Africans and should not be allowed into South Africa’ - with which 69 percent agreed.’
When the violence began in May 2008, the immediate reaction from the state, academics and NGOs was the call for more civic ‘education’, usually about human rights, the plight of refugees, or the role that neighbouring societies played in hosting South African exiles during apartheid. But beyond platitudes, civic education would not be sufficient to address genuine grievances. In a report that reflected latent policy xenophobia, the Human Sciences Research Council (2008) found that ‘Settlements that have recently experienced the expression of “xenophobic” violence have also been the site of violent and other forms of protest around other issues, most notably service delivery.’ However, it should be noted that the HSRC’s (2008) recommendations – amongst which were that RDP houses not be allowed to be occupied (even for rent or after sale) by immigrants and a call for retention of skilled migrants but extreme measures against unskilled workers - were unconstitutional and counterproductive.
Behind some of this tension is the recent expansion of the migrant labour system. In 1994, the choice was made not to rid South Africa’s economy of migrancy. To do so would have meant improving wages, maintaining much higher employment levels through state jobs schemes, turning single-sex migrant hostels into decent family homes, establishing a rural development programme that would lower migration pressure, and compelling the extension of formal employment benefits (health insurance, housing, pensions) to black workers and their families, as is the case with higher-income white workers. Today, the hostels remain (only a few having been converted to family housing), and with the doubling of the unemployment rate, the buildings are often full of unemployed men, and were the geographic source of many xenophobic attacks.
Moreover, even if South Africa’s racially-defined areas known as Bantustans – Zululand, Bophuthatswana, Venda, Transkei, Ciskei, QwaQwa, etc - have disappeared from apartheid-era Swiss-cheese maps, the economic logic of drawing inexpensive labour from distant sites is even more extreme, now that it no longer is stigmatised by apartheid connotations. Instead of hailing from South African Bantustans, the most desperate migrant workers in SA’s major cities are increasingly sourced from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), countries all partially deindustrialised by South African business expansion up-continent over the past two decades. In one frank admission of self-interest regarding these workers, First National Bank chief economist Cees Bruggemann told Business Report, ‘They keep the cost of labour down... Their income gets spent here because they do not send the money back to their countries’ (Comins 2008). If many immigrants don’t send back remittances (because their wages are low and the cost of living has soared), that in turn reminds us of how apartheid drew cheap labour from Bantustans: for many years women were coerced into supplying unpaid services - child-rearing, healthcare and eldercare for retirees - so as to reproduce fit male workers for the mines, factories and plantations.
And in turn, civil society has been challenged to think beyond immediate grievances and to find international solidaristic relationships. An exemplary experience was the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union’s April 2008 refusal to offload (from a Chinese ship) three million bullets destined for Zimbabwe police and army guns, not only in Durban where the An Yue Jiang first tried to dock, but across the region thanks to unions’ and human rights groups’ mobilisations. On 24 May, 2008 Johannesburg civil society mobilised several thousand people – local supporters and immigrants alike – to march through Hillbrow in solidarity with immigrants. Various other initiatives in townships across South Africa showed that communities could welcome immigrants back, and live in harmony. The provision of resources by churches, NGOs and concerned citizens was impressive, even while the state backtracked from responsibilities and adopted a denialist posture.
Yet the difficulties of transcending grievances and building solidarity are obvious in Durban, a city with thousands of fearful immigrants who in May-June 2008 were made homeless and unable to return to communities. Three case study sites in South Africa’s second-largest city – Chatsworth, Cato Manor and the Central Business District – provide evidence of the unevenness of social reactions to the xenophobia crisis.
Chatsworth/ Bayview and Bottlebrush
It is estimated that about six million people live in shacks in South Africa; in Durban, there are approximately 650 000 shack dwellers out of a total population of 3.5 million (Brown 2009). The Bottlebrush settlement in Chatsworth was one of the test cases in a project by the eThekwini municipality to address socio-environmental problems. It was found to have ‘severe pollution problems impacting on community health [and] low level or poor existing infrastructures and services’ (Brown 2009). But during field visits to Bottlebrush, there was no sign of the benefits of this project, nor of an effective Ward Committee or ANC branch.
Nevertheless there is a small cash flow within the settlement, to some extent based on immigrant worker wages. Almost all the immigrants whom our researchers engaged confirmed that they are employed, especially the men. But they are mostly precariously employed, and immigrants are, as a rule, paid much less than South Africans. On a research visit in July 2010 we learned of a nearby clothing factory that had recently replaced local workers earning R100/day with immigrants paid just R20/day (Zvavanhu 2010). Some South Africans resident in Bottlebrush recognize this injustice and blame the employers, while others blame the immigrants for accepting low wages.
The Bottlebrush findings also indicate that immigrant workers are not only ill-treated by the employers but also by fellow workers. They work harder, longer and are given the most difficult tasks. In at least one case, the employer docks immigrant workers' pay at the behest of other (South African born) workers and such money is used for braaivleis. Immigrant workers appear to sometimes provide cheap labour to the South African economy and also serve as a kind of underclass labour force, pushed around by both employer and fellow employee at the workplace.
The same story can be found in the reproductive sphere, especially housing. The evidence from Bottlebrush suggests that as soon as the land invaders take over the land, build their shacks and manage to ward off attempts to remove them by the state, the tendency is to slide into individualized private ownership of the shacks and the land upon which they are erected. The attack on private property represented by the invasion means, in turn, the possibility of public collective/community ownership implied by the collective act of invading and defending against state attempts to dislodge the invaders. But this soon gives way to the parcelling out of more or less privately owned pieces of land which, after some time, congeals into a ‘lumpen’ form of landlordism.
This is exactly what happened in Bottlebrush, where an uneven development process played out in microcosm. Today, many shackowners in this informal settlement are landlords who rent out shacks to other community members including immigrants. Homeownership, in short, invites a faction of the working class to wage its inevitable fight over appropriation of value in capitalist society in a very different way (Harvey 1989). It frequently leads them to appropriate values at the expense of other factions of the working class. The ethic and practice of self-management and self-government which develops during the period of invasion and initial settlement, instead of being extended and developed into a struggle against capital, is turned into its opposite whereby the 'people's committees' which lead the community end up being arbiters and managers of value extraction by landlords from tenants, many of whom, in Bottlebrush at least, are immigrants.
People born in South Africa are not immune from such exploitation. The invasion of land in Crossmore was effected by Bottlebrush tenants who ‘got tired’ of paying exorbitant rents in the settlement. The worst part, according to the leader of the Crossmore invaders, was that as tenants, they were not allowed any say in Bottlebrush community affairs. But when the invaders are left alone by the state after successfully taking over the land, their hope is to be given 'umxhaso' (Zulu for subsidy) housing and this is premised on the orderly existence of individual households or people who qualify. This further pushes the community towards acceptance of the private property principle in land and house ownership because it is a condition set by the state to get a house.
At the same time, African immigrants without documents are automatically excluded. And, in the case of Bottlebrush, tenants even if born in South Africa, are also excluded with only landlords or 'stand owners' ('omastende') qualifying to receive the RDP houses being constructed in the area. And, as happened with the Crossmore invaders, meetings are still being called by tenants in Bottlebrush who are planning another land invasion both to escape petit landlordism and to position themselves to get subsidized houses sometime in the future, something they are not going to get as long as they are tenants in someone's yard in Bottlebrush.
What is the relevance of all this to the xenophobic attacks? The most exploited tenants appear to be the immigrants. Where rent for a typical two-room shack costs R200, there is not infrequently a sharing of five young male immigrants into the two rooms, with landlords charging R100 each, or R500 in total. Upward pressure on available rental residential space thus becomes another source of pressure, and the structural condition of an overall housing shortage is thus translated into a source of competition in which immigrants are superexploited by paying much higher rentals than local people, and in turn are resented for driving up the rental price and exacerbating the underlying condition of scarcity. Xenophobic consciousness is a logical result.
Civil society is not a factor in Bottlebrush itself. The settlement is notorious for being a rough, crime-ridden place. This was brought somewhat under control when the community, led by the local ANC, organized a vigilante group, but other forms of civic organization were banished from the area, and the vigilantes reportedly ended up ill-treating people in the name of maintaining law and order. That left the ANC Branch Executive Committee, which does not operate well within Chatsworth’s Ward 71. In the 2006 municipal election, that Ward was won by the Minority Front with the ANC losing out because of the ‘Indian vote’. The ANC allocated a proportional representative councilor to work in the area but respondents confirm that she is inactive in local affairs.
When in May 2008 xenophobia erupted in Chatsworth, foreign nationals from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe living in the Bottlebrush and Unity Avenue informal settlements of Chatsworth were most severely affected. In these areas, anger and resentment brewed as locals collectively blamed foreigners for housing and job shortages. As the violence ensued, the government did not provide assistance and it was left to civil society to fill the void and respond to the crisis. Neighbourhood associations and religious groups from the area provided relief in the form of shelter, clothing and food, but due to limited resources and capacities, assistance did not extend beyond the short term.
The response of civil society did not, in short, address the root causes of xenophobia. This was not for lack of sophistication and commitment, for civil society groups in Chatsworth, such as the Bayview and Westcliff Flat Residents Associations, have been at the cutting edge of organizing against structural oppression, including evictions and service delivery failures in the post-apartheid era (Desai 2002). ,The underlying structural problems in the shack settlements of Chatsworth were, unfortunately, far too severe for community activists to counteract in 2008 and even in 2010 when new eruptions of xenophobia were recorded.
There was an indication of the coming xenophobic violence in Bottlebrush, because before the 2008 attacks began, pamphlets were distributed throughout the community warning immigrants and threatening imminent violence if they did not immediately vacate the premises. Many fled immediately, but there were attacks and several deaths inside the settlement. The flashpoint of violence descended into chaos and it was impossible for our researchers (or police) to get clear numbers of the number of attacks and murders that ensued.
Victims fled to the Bayview and Chatsworth SAPS stations as well as to nearby Morton Community Hall. In addition, other victims fled to churches in central Durban, such as Emmanuel Cathedral, where the intake of hundreds of xenophobic victims from other areas of the city had already begun. Westville Baptist Church also took refuges from the Chatsworth violence. Some of the perpetrators were apprehended, according to respondents:
The man who beat me was arrested. He stayed two months in the police station. After that he was released. He is around. I am scared of him because I don’t know what he is thinking about me.
Police came and said whoever beat makwerekwere must be arrested. Landladies were asked to identify those who beat up makwerekwere. Some did, some did not.
In other words, the justice system failed the immigrants, and many fell back on networks of mutual aid based on nationalities. The victims of xenophobia and those displaced by the violence were mostly foreign nationals from Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Nigerians also have business contacts and links in the township as do many Pakistani immigrants. While the Nigerians typically reside in central Durban, only coming to Chatsworth on business, Pakistani immigrants hold residence in Chatsworth in owned houses throughout the area.
Overall, however, the Bottlebrush case is one combining severely adverse structural forces, inadequate internal community leadership in the impoverished shack settlement, inadequate civil society protection from the surrounding working-class neighbourhoods, and ongoing harassment of immigrants. A July 2010 visit resulted in yet more evidence of a poor community under severe stress, and a willingness to express that stress in highly xenophobic language (Zvavanhu 2010).
Cato Manor and Cato Crest
Cato Manor/Cato Crest is a culturally diverse community, and is so geographically well-located – just below the University of KwaZulu-Natal fewer than 15kms from the centre of Durban (i.e. as close as Sophiatown in Johannesburg and District 6 in Cape Town) - that in the 1950-60s, its mainly African and Indian residents were subject to forced removals. Various efforts to resettle the land were made since the 1980s, and after 1994, many more people of various African cultural backgrounds – with a large Mozambican plurality - immigrated. For most, educational qualifications do not go beyond high school level, and most left their home countries for economic reasons. As one said,
For some, South Africa was the most natural place to seek work since their older male relatives worked in South Africa, mainly in the mines. Many lived in South Africa for over ten years, and possess work permits. Many men came unmarried and some are living with, or are married to, South African women. Others prefer married women from their countries of origin. But housing and jobs represent a challenge. As a typical Mozambican informant put it,
We don’t want to talk about our landlord. But, no I am not happy with this room. Look how small it is. Yesterday it was raining, and the roof was leaking, as you can see that spot on the floor. The room is not only small, but also dirty, look at the mud on the floor. I have a single bed here, nothing else. I keep my suitcase on my bed because there is no space for it in here. The room can accommodate only the bed. Look at the door, it’s not even safe living here. But I pay R350 per month. But what can I do? The only good thing here is that, as you can see, we are all from Mozambique here, so we feel that sense of community ... Yes, but you see, I cannot live anywhere else, I don’t want to leave my fellow country men here. It’s safer. Besides, my salary is not so good. I get R50 a day. So I cannot afford a better place anywhere else. I have a family at home. I get R1200 per month. I take half of that home, and use the rest for rent and food here.
No matter how little they earn, immigrants tend not to complain about high housing rates, and for the most part are reliable tenants. There are general perceptions that landlords and employers are lenient towards immigrants.
Tuck shops and taverns or shebeens in Cato Manor/Crest are run by South Africans. Except for street hawkers who sell fruits and vegetables, and a few who sell their goods at flea markets, most immigrants are workers, mostly in shops or in construction companies outside Cato Manor/Crest. Retail was therefore not the cause of tension, unlike other townships where East African and Pakistani shops were targets.
Civil society in Cato Manor/Crest gave limited emergency support – food, shelter, clothing, transport and spiritual support - to immigrants in May-June 2008. Respondents indicated they received assistance from local churches, doctors, local committees, foreigners’ associations and other interest groups. Some employers even came to pick up immigrant employees for work. Former Umkhonto we Sizwe soldiers also provided support. There was a series of meetings between the police, local government structures, representatives of the immigrants and other interested parties. As a result, xenophobia in Cato Manor/Crest did not degenerate into the widespread violence witnessed elsewhere, in part because material conditions were sufficiently different to avoid sources of tension between immigrants and local residents.
Central Business District and Umbilo Road
Although better protected than in many outlying townships, the centres of South Africa’s major cities witnessed intense incidents of xenophobia, and these have continued in Durban. Trouble began in May 2008 at a bar frequented by Nigerian patrons next to Dalton Hostel in Umbilo Road, followed by incidents in the Central Business District area stretching from Albert Park in the south to the Warwick Junction trading area to the northwest (there were no recorded incidents of violence we could determine further east to the Point and beachfront).
In Albert Park, in early 2009, a mob led by Durban city councilor Vusi Khoza pushed a Zimbabwean and Tanzanian to their deaths out of a sixth floor window at the Venture Africa building. The case was prosecuted in 2009-10 but suffered numerous delays and sufficient intimidation threats that a key participant in the attacks required witness protection. In late 2008, Khoza – initially charged with murder, then with assault - had officially requested that the eThekwini Municipality remove all non-South Africans from the area because they allegedly increased the crime rate and overcrowded the flats. As a result, Jambo House in St. George’s Street was the scene of several of police raids.
In another common example, police raided the site near Warwick Junction known as the Containers in July 2010 and exported Zimbabweans 35 km from Durban in order to extract a bribe (Manzi 2010). And in a November 2010 raid on a Nigerian tavern in Umbilo, a Hawks national investigation team found that ‘a syndicate of Durban police officers has allegedly been using foreigners as cash cows, planting drugs on them and threatening to arrest them unless they hand over thousands of rands’ (Padayachee 2010).
Further evidence of the tensions associated with official crackdowns on immigrants in a context of residential overcrowding occurred during July-October 2008, when 47 Congolese refugees displaced by the May-June xenophobic violence were dumped by churches at City Hall on July 11. After a confrontation there with City Manager Mike Sutcliffe, they regrouped at Albert Park. With the aid of a local evangelical church (from the white suburbs), they fashioned a fragile tent shelter and received food aid. According to Sutcliffe, ‘We also have to take care that we do not perpetuate the situation longer than necessary. A growing refugee problem is something we must try and avoid at all costs’. After nearly four months living conspicuously in Albert Park (once the grandest park in Durban), the refugees were violently evicted by police, and disappeared as a coherent group. Conceding that the displacement was necessary ahead of the 2010 World Cup, a mega-event which also threatened nearby Warwick Junction, Constable Kwesi Matenjwa of the central Durban office spoke to researchers (on tape) four hours after destroying the refugees’ plastic shelter and confiscating most of their goods (including official refugee papers) on 1 November 2008 (Bond, Hinely and Meth, 2008):
Mthenjwa: 2010 is going to be here, so the people from the so-called other countries, when they come to this country, they must have this image that South Africa, the city of Durban is clean, that there are no vagrant people, there are no traders in the streets.
Bond: Did they tell you about the rights of people, that if they are taken away they must have somewhere to go?
Mthenjwa: Yes. I’ll tell you one thing, about the technicalities of the law and the constitution of this country I am well aware of it. It’s just that, at some stage, you get thrown in a deep ocean, in a deep sea whereby you cannot even swim.
Bond: And the human rights have drowned with you too, eh?
Mthenjwa: Yes, they have drowned in the sea. No matter how good you are in swimming, you can’t even swim because you are just a small fish in a deep ocean where only the big boys, the sharks, the so-called white sharks exist in the environment.
Bond: And you are fairly sure that you have to follow these [eviction orders] because they come from the very top, is that Mike Sutcliffe?
Mthenjwa: Thank you, thank you!
Again, structural analysis of the region’s uneven and combined development is important to provide context. The Albert Park refugees hailed from the east of the DRC where an estimated five million civilians lost their lives in civil war associated with the area’s Resource Curse, especially the drive by multinational capital to extract coltan (for cellphones and other electronic devices) at conditions that provide minerals at a price lower than what a stable mining area would provide. For example, AngloGold Ashanti had mining operations in Mongbwalu that, began in 1996, during the reign of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. In 2005, Human Rights Watch (2005) revealed AngloGold Ashanti’s payments to warlords of the National Integration Front. The firm’s chief executive officer, Bobby Godsell (2005), explained: ‘Our central purpose is to find and mine gold profitably… Mistakes will be made’. According to Michael Deibert (2008) of CorpWatch, ‘A November 2007 report by a special commission of Congo’s Ministry of Mines concluded that the terms and lack of transparency in Ashanti Goldfields’ original contract violated Congolese law and was thus subject to renegotiation.’
The South African government, meanwhile, bent over backwards to support the role of SA mining houses (including AngloGold Ashanti) in the DRC, even lending the Kinshasa government R760 million in 2002 so as to repay the IMF for Mobutu’s odious loans, in exchange for easy entry by Joburg mining houses. The UN documented several SA firms’ role in the DRC’s war-time looting, but no action was taken (Bond 2002).
In this context, refugee support for those like the 47 Congolese in Albert Park was terribly uneven, for in that case the key NGOs and government agencies – especially the United Nations High Commission for Refugees – gave up on the group, and vice versa. In general, treatment of immigrants became technicised and individualised, and the recognition of refugees was subject to excessive professionalisation. To illustrate, Amisi and Matate (2009) point out that in its early years the commemoration of World Refugee day in Durban was organised by the refugee community themselves. However for the 2008-10 World Refugee Days, the community was replaced in this work by service providers supported by the government, whose commemoration ‘celebrated themselves’.
Moving from the residential sites of struggle in Albert Park a few kilometres northwest to the commercial heartland of Warwick Junction, we find the most contested space in the Durban informal economy, for locals and immigrants alike. Unity was required when traders faced regular municipal closure threats, especially for the Early Morning Market. Police corruption and crime are also rife in the area, with immigrants subject to irregular arrests (for not carrying permits), long drives to the Durban hinterlands, bribes, and long walks back to town (Manzi 2010). Warwick Junction presents challenges to the traders and foreign traders in particular because of competition over trading space, refusal to pay rental to the eThekwini Municipality, allegations of trading in stolen goods, and retail business competition. Once the threat of eviction wanes, other problems - lack of trust, suspicion, and xenophobic feelings - resurface.
Perceptions are rife that immigrants are a prolific source of petty crime, especially in commercial sites. In part because of repeated accusations of criminality aimed at immigrants, some Warwick Junction traders organised themselves and created the Siyagunda Association, whose ranks grew to almost 250 members by 2008. The majority were so poor that they struggled to pay even token membership fees, but the organisation was necessary, as at the time, non-South Africans had no right to trade in the area and were threatened with removal. Siyagunda’s leadership requested and finally gained trading permits from City officials, and pledged to investigate all cases of stolen goods inside and around the Warwick Junction regardless of the perpetrators. As Siyagunda’s vice president confirms,
One or two members were involved indeed in some of these activities… We reported to the police the first two transactions of stolen mobile phones.… Unfortunately, the suspects were later released after they bribed the police. The message was, however, clear. Since then, these transactions stopped, at least officially and both customers and traders in the Pinetown Rank move peacefully…
The Municipality then attempted to replace the Early Morning Market because a new shopping mall would allegedly ‘reduce crime and regulate people’s movements in the area. The Mall will be also part of Black Economic Empowerment’. Siyagunda was in opposition – and the mall was delayed on technical and legal grounds – but immigrants played a low-profile role.
Competition over space, retail prices, and customers creates potential for conflicts among immigrant traders and between the latter and local traders. According to a Congolese trader,
Ethiopians represent the first group of traders who kill our business. They sell goods to us in bulk and then they begin to sell per unit below the price that we bought the goods from them. As result, we do not sell. Remember that we do not work like Pick’n Pay, Cheecker, or SPAR which retail items for producers. When the products e.g. bread or apples expire, the producers are paid from the quantities sold. The rest is a loss to the producers not retailers. We buy once for all. If I do not sell, I lose... All traders are not happy with Ethiopians and Somali traders. I do not really know what will happen one day…
Somalis, the second group of traders, work like Ethiopians. They are also destroying other people market niches. Let me give an example. I sell on the streets. I use to my goods in bulk from a Somali shop owner at R45 per unit. I would like to sell it at R55 or R60. After buying at R45 per unit from a Somali trader, he/ she will resell the remaining goods at R30 per unit. Obviously, buyers will go to Somali and Ethiopians traders than buying from me. That is why traders in the formal and informal economy are not happy with the two nationalities…
The two groups of traders are so powerful that they own several businesses around the market, and in streets other than West and Smith they own up to 60 percent of businesses. South Africans have only 40 percent except big brands like Edgars, Woolworth, and others. The two nationalities are so powerful in this business that even Chinese are buying from them rather than importing all their goods from China….
Regarding the products and prices that immigrants offer, according to one local critic,
They sell cheap because they do not spend any money on electricity, shop, shop assistants… Nothing, nothing at all. They pretend to employ South Africans, how many locals do they employ and how much money do they pay them? This is not possible. We can not continue like this. Something must be done to stop this… and I hope it will be done soon…
Like other parts of Durban, the uneven and combined development intrinsic to petty commodity distribution contributes to resentments in times of scarce employment and intense retail competition. But regional geopolitical processes are the original source of many of the DRC and Zimbabwean refugees’ core problems, and South African subimperial power is central to the way these problems have been amplified in recent years (Bond 2006).
Durban civil society’s response
A few Durban civil society organisations quickly emerged in June 2008 to address the xenophobia crisis (Schwarer and Mwalasi 2008). There was a clear division between those civic groups providing material assistance to the displaced and those whose work was more ‘behind the scenes’ but nonetheless vital, as well as the organizations which took a solidaristic role with a focus on political and advocacy activities. Most visible were churches of several denominations which took in displaced people, housing and feeding them, sometimes for weeks at a time, with limited facilities and resources. The Red Cross took on the role of collecting, coordinating and delivering material aid in the form of food, clothing and basic hygiene supplies. They were supported largely by student volunteers and donations from the public, though they received financial support from the eThekwini Disaster Management fund. Several observers noted that Red Cross appeared under-resourced and unprepared for a crisis of this nature.
Most organisations at first acted in the belief that the City of Durban and/or the provincial government would soon step in to coordinate and lead the relief efforts. This did not occur, and as a result, despite attempts from more experienced coordinators, efforts were haphazard, often overlapping and largely undocumented. The Red Cross was supported by donations from members of the public. In late May 2008, Durban Action Against Xenophobia (DAAX) led a ‘trolley drive’, placing trolleys at the entrances to supermarkets in major shopping centres all around Durban, to gather donations. Public response was exceptional, and volunteers had to be called upon to empty trolleys several times a day over the week that the drive was on. Several private citizens also took it upon themselves to collect food, clothing and blankets at their places of work and deliver them to the Red Cross, which was headquartered in a small room at the Cato Manor Police Station. Additionally, parishioners of the many churches that hosted displaced people gave donations and spent time cooking for people.
All the civil society organisations we spoke to in the course of this research emphasised the important role the public played in generously providing for the displaced. This response was, unfortunately, short-lived. By July 2008, many reports came in of ‘burnout’ as the churches and their supporters felt they had ‘contributed enough’ by a certain point. There also seems to have been widespread belief in government announcements that the xenophobia was ‘over’ and that there were no longer any displaced people. Similar announcements were made in July 2010, when increasing reports of xenophobic violence during the closing days of the World Cup reactivated some of the networks.
Three networks deserve mention. First, the Durban Refugee Service Providers Network (RSPN) worked on material relief alongside the main representatives of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees: Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and the Mennonite Central Committee, later renamed Refugee Social Services (RSS). Other member organisations provided an important support network both for ‘legal’ refugees and for ‘illegal migrants’ during the crisis. The RSPN organised and hosted several workshops during the crisis period and provided a leadership and coordination role (to the best of its capacity). All member organisations have an ongoing commitment to education around xenophobia. It should be noted that member organisations are mandated to provide assistance to official refugees – that is, foreign nationals who have asylum seeker or refugee status in South Africa. There are a large number of Congolese and Rwandan nationals, as well as citizens of other African countries, living in the Durban area, and LHR and the RSS report that in general these groups are well integrated into local communities.
Second, Durban Action Against Xenophobia (DAAX) was originally a group of students and lecturers who rallied via a group created on Facebook, volunteering their time to stand with trolleys at local shopping centres or deliver goods to and from the Red Cross headquarters in Cato Manor. Later, many members of the public joined the group and at its height, in around mid-June 2008, the Facebook group had just under 1000 members, while the database listed around 150 active volunteers. Apart from donations, DAAX assisted in monitoring sites to track numbers of people and donations needed.
Third, the Coalition Against Xenophobia, Racism, Ethnicism and Poverty (CAXREP) was a more politicized network that cut across the usual divisions between centre-left and left in SA politics. The most active organizations were the SA Communist Party, the SA National Civic Organisation, Student Socialist Movement, and several regional support bodies: the Movement for Democratic Change (Zimbabwean), the Siyagunda traders’ association (mainly DRC) and the KZN Refugee Council. The politicisation was explicit in the coalition’s July 2008 self-mandate, which included the desire to
Deepen public understanding of the situation in Zimbabwe… uniting in action against the common poverty shared by South Africans and African migrants based on the lack of access to good health care or other infrastructural and financial services or the ‘Red Card’… Deepen public understanding of the root causes of xenophobia in South Africa based on globalization as imperialism…[and] Work for a humane immigration policy in South Africa (Caxrep 2008).
In spite of the persistence of these problems, the Caxrep effort was truncated by exhaustion, and some of the more committed immigrant members – especially Zimbabweans – turned their attention in 2010 to self-organisation as well as collaboration with the Centre for Civil Society in its anti-xenophobia campaigning during the World Cup.
Networks aside, there were several crucial civil society organizations worthy of a brief discussion. Sherylle Dass of Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) notes that the LHR became involved because they were called in by local police, together with Mennonite Centre Committee (subsequently renamed Refugee Social Services). The core mandate of the LHR is facilitate the local integration of refugees and the resettlement to the third country on individual’ specific needs basis. They do not deal with mass resettlement. Local integration is the official position of the South African regarding refugees and asylum seekers into communities, with the same access to services and rights as South African citizens. This is so because refugee camps do not represent a viable option in South Africa. As a result, their activities during the xenophobia crisis consisted of screening the Bottlebrush immigrants sheltering in Morton Community Hall with the aim of repatriating them to their countries of origin or to third countries including Canada.
The Diakonia Council of Churches does not deal with charity work, though individual church members do. Diakonia become involved in relief work with immigrants from the time, during the xenophobic violence, that a group invaded its premises and refused to leave without any durable solutions to problems of displacement, lack of food and other basic necessities. Diakonia then was forced to act at two levels. Firstly, it directly distributed food parcels and clothing to the victims of xenophobic violence. Secondly, Diakonia requested that member churches open their doors and provide assistance to the victims of xenophobic violence. Diakonia also tried to reduce xenophobic violence through public awareness before, during, and after the attacks. Diakonia was selected by the eThekwini Municipality as a coordinating civil society body to manage assistance to the victims of xenophobic violence. In 2010, Diakonia also hosted two meetings of a new informal network of concerned organisations, as it appeared xenophobia would again become a major problem after the World Cup ended.
The Refugee Social Services (RSS), formerly the Mennonite Central Committee, was actively involved in providing assistance to some refugees since before the outbreak of violence in mid-2008. RSS assists newly arrived refugees with accommodation, often providing financial assistance for months at a time while refugees seek work in South Africa. In May-June 2008, the RSS provided accommodation to some displaced.
StreetNet put the word out to members of its street vendors’ organisations that xenophobia was not to be tolerated. The organisation subsequently reported several cases where potential incidents had been ‘nipped in the bud’ through members preventing other members or non-affiliated vendors/ consumers from threatening or attacking foreign nationals. Pat Horn of Streetnet reports that the organisation includes members who are foreign nationals who have successfully organised vendors associations in their own areas, and these groups were particularly well placed to provide support and education.
Churches, mosques and temples around Durban offered temporary and longer-term shelters for hundreds of refugees during May and June 2008. Emmanuel Cathedral in the Warwick Triangle area housed the largest number of refugees, and was most able to provide care and resources due to its ongoing involvement in refugee service provision in the city. Other churches became involved when refugees began arriving at their premises requesting shelter. The churches were supported to a large degree by the Red Cross but also relied heavily on their parishes for donations and resources. Several did not have adequate facilities for cooking, so parishioners were called upon to prepare food at their homes and deliver it to the churches.
Some churches were reluctant to let it be known that they were sheltering displaced people. In most cases this was to ensure their safety, but there was some suggestion that churches felt they did not have the capacity to accept further displaced people and did not want it known that they were sheltering people for fear others would follow. The Anglican Church in Durban was able to source funding to provide reintegration packages for all displaced people they were sheltering (at three church locations). In conversation with a member of DAAX, a church representative stressed that the Anglican Church would aim to provide ongoing pastoral care alongside the reintegration package. He also emphasised the importance of engaging community stakeholders in the reintegration process and noted that widespread poverty in South Africa is a serious barrier. These concerns were to be echoed by civil society organisations in our interviews.
Finally, the KwaZulu-Natal Refugee Council (KZNRC) is a voluntary, registered non-profit organisation which includes, works for and with 17 refugee communities from 17 refugee producing countries and several refugee non-profit organisations. The main objectives of the KZNRC consist of promoting the human rights of refugees through access to health care, education, employment, identification document and travel document, freedom of speech and movement; and raising awareness within the refugee community around the responsibility and obligations of refugees toward their host country. The secondary objectives of the KZNRC include facilitating self-integration into the South African community; promoting peaceful cohabitation and exchange between the entire refugee community and South Africans; and fighting all forms of discrimination and xenophobia.
What this survey of Durban civil society involved in the struggle against xenophobia suggests is that mitigation and adaptation were the main strategies, as opposed to seeking deep-rooted solutions. Those that attempted the latter (DAAX and the Centre for Civil Society) were ill-equipped to do anything more than offer critique, as the solutions associated with the structural causes of xenophobia were far larger than the balance of forces woud permit small civil agency agencies from facing.
It is apparent from our investigations that within the processes of uneven and combined development of both capitalism and civil society in the region and in Durban, deep structural forces are responsible for xenophobia. Durban civil society was only partially successful in organising short-term crisis responses to the violence of 2008, but did not offer or create any long-term solutions. Moreover, as for maintaining attention, civil society organisations were generally incapable of preparing for a new upsurge of xenophobic sentiments. Few were involved following the short term response in 2008, even though the analysis above suggests that there is a space for civil society cooperation around the structural factors and root causes of xenophobia.
For example, civil society in Chatsworth has a history of successful mobilization around issues such as housing and service delivery, but this did not directly benefit xenophobia hotspots such as Bottlebrush and Unity Avenue. As another example, the KwaZulu-Natal Refugee Council has barely begun the work of building political solidarity with the wide range of regional immigrants – especially from the Great Lakes region, Nigeria’s Niger Delta, Zimbabwe and Swaziland – that might be feasible.
As for short-term problems within civil society, a lack of coordination and leadership were consistently cited as the greatest challenges in dealing with this crisis. Respondents suggested that organisations had been ‘polarised’, and mentioned ‘antagonism’ and ‘finger pointing’. This suggests that, due to the lack of leadership, the situation deteriorated as the crisis wore on. Many organisations had expected local government to take a leadership role, and expressed their surprise and disappointment that this had not occurred. They eventually experienced a kind of donor fatigue.
All respondents seemed to view reintegration as the only realistic solution, but viewed management of the reintegration process as flawed. This was tied to the view that several respondents expressed that not enough had been done to engage both displaced people and community members in education, response and reintegration proposals. Reintegration cannot be successful without engagement with ‘host’ communities and well-facilitated dialogue between communities and refugees. In Durban, there was no coherent process to manage this communication, and this appears to have resulted in reintegration being successful in some cases but not others. We note a definite disjuncture between organizations which dealt directly with communities within their member base, and other organisations who dealt specifically with displaced people and whose response was instinctively charitable rather than developmental.
Most importantly, the response of civil society did not address the root causes of xenophobia. Within a year, most of those repatriated returned to South Africa. Worldwide economic crisis, job losses, and rising prices made the situation even more precarious. The sentiments that bred the mid-2008 attacks are still present and although there has been no mass violence on the scale of that social catastrophe, the period immediately after the 2010 World Cup suggested the high potential for renewed disaster.
Many of the structural constraints are beyond local community capacity in any case because of the politics of scale. Changing regional geopolitical policies – such as South Africa’s exploitation of Zimbabwe, the DRC and Swaziland – is a tall order, as is insulating South Africa from ongoing world economic volatility. Another example of a structural challenge well beyond civil society’s control is the sensibility that foreign nationals receive SA citizenship fraudulently after bribing Department of Home Affairs officials. (Such fraudulently acquired citizenship resulted in foreign nationals getting access to child support grants, permits to work permanently in SA, access to free medical treatment in state hospitals and acquisition of free houses.) It is perceived that some foreigners go to the extent of bribing Home Affairs officials and Marriage officers that conduct illegal marriages with SA women without their consent so as to acquire citizenship. Another local cultural perception is that foreign men take wives and partners away from South African men, because they are willing to pay school fees for children that they are not even biological parents to. Hence some of the causes of xenophobic attacks mentioned to researchers include jealousy. Other structural, long-term problems noted by researchers include alleged crime and drug dealing.
In sum, we have identified a series of shortcomings associated with the partial responses to xenophobia by civil society organisations in Durban, and major long-term structural problems that local organisations are unable to address – and that we are only at the initial stage of identifying and documenting. These latter include unemployment, poverty, competition for few resources that the government is providing, poor services provided by the municipality to local people, preferential treatment of foreigners by employers who perceive them as a source of unorganized and cheap labour, and fraudulent marriages that assisted foreign nationals to get SA citizenship.
By all accounts, there is severe competition for jobs, houses and social grants reported by some participants. Others disputed any form of competition as foreign nationals do work which South African nationals are refusing to do, such as operating as car guards and running cheap salon businesses in the streets. These are opportunities that foreign nationals created and local people are still reluctant to explore. Foreign nationals are willing to settle for lower-paying jobs whereas SA nationals demand a living wage when they choose jobs, a factor associated with the low cost of reproduction of labour power in the sites from which they came. In such settings, the traditional practice of superexploitation of women – who raise workers when they are young, who look after sick workers and who look after workers when they retire, thereby allowing employers to hire these workers more cheaply than those with local families, school fees, health insurance premiums, pensions, etc – is also a critical factor.
There are at least eight concrete conclusions. First, civil society’s response to xenophobic violence did not go beyond relief which consists of providing food, temporary accommodation, lobbying and advocacy. It did not address South Africa’s extremely high unemployment, tight housing market with residential stratification, extreme retail business competition, world-leading crime rates, Home Affairs Department corruption, patriarchy and cultural conflicts, and severe regional geopolitical stresses. It is therefore possible to witness the repeat of a large scale xenophobic violence in the future.
Second, the xenophobic violence is rooted in interlocking, overlapping, market and state failure beyond the ability of civil society organisations which are equipped for limited local advocacy, service delivery, and sometimes local solidarity. Third, the xenophobic violence was associated with denialism of structural inequality and of capitalist urbanisation’s social-segregating orientation.
Fourth, reintegration of non-South Africans in the affected areas was spontaneous without the contribution of the United Nations and national/provincial/municipal government.
Fifth, reintegration was also tolerated where non-South Africans rent accommodation (at high prices) from South Africans in sites like Cato Manor and Cato Crest, Chatsworth and Bottlebrush.
Sixth, civil society solidarity with immigrants did occur and shows that South African and non-South African communities can live in harmony – if there is a conducive environment in which people’s concerns can be freely expressed. Seventh, immigrants have been always welcomed for their cheap labour in mining, factories, and plantations. Yet, both pre and post-1994 South African governments were reluctant to provide non-South Africans a genuine set of rights for living in hostile cities.
Eighth, the local KwaZulu Bantustan and same-sex hostels long served as Durban’s ‘reserve’ for local cheap labour, and have since been replaced by regional labour supplies (especially Zimbabwe), overcrowded townships and shack settlements, and poorly maintained inner-city areas such as Albert Park and Point Road. These much broader spaces are now breeding grounds for socio-economic discontent, socio-cultural frustrations, persistent anti-foreigner rhetoric, and xenophobic violence.
Considering the underlying and immediate causes of the crisis, civil society organisations’ short-term responses to the crisis were only partial, reflecting the unevenness of Durban social organisation. It is to the long-term problems of a durable, structural nature that our recommendations can be best addressed. Without a long-term solution, the lack of coordination and leadership exhibited in Durban civil society will continue. Hence we recommend:
1. a unifying local/ national/regional approach to rising (and durably high) unemployment, based upon a ‘right to work’ and sufficient public work resources, directed to projects needed by poor people and the communities;
2. a dramatic shift of state investment resources into housing/services, for both capital/infrastructure and ongoing operating/maintenance subsidies;
3. a rising level of disposable income for low-income people – e.g. through a Basic Income Grant - to accommodate the intensified desperation in the informal sector;
4. a commitment to dramatic increases in publicly-subsidised employment and to channelling investment resources into low-income areas, so as to mitigate the economic desperation that so often generates crime;
5. changes to SA state regulations that liberalise border restrictions (e.g. the Zimbabwean temporary work visa which was provided in 2009-10), and a very strong stance against such corruption, plus a dramatic increase in staff to accommodate the Department’s rising clientele base;
6. a much greater SA state commitment to fighting patriarchy and to the promotion of cultural diversity and the ‘melting pot’ of regional citizenries within SA; and
7. a shift of SA foreign policy – driven by regional solidaristic initiatives in civil society - away from strategies associated with subimperial ruling-class nurturing for geopolitical purposes (e.g. Zimbabwe, Swaziland and the DRC) and with minerals extraction, which together exacerbate political-economic and geopolitical tensions in Southern and Central Africa.
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. Interview with Aguillo, immigrant from Mozambique, Bottlebrush resident.
. Interview with MaSithole’s 1st daughter, Bottlebrush resident.
. Some of them worked without work permits. Most of these got their permits after the May 2008 attacks in South Africa.
. One of the informants felt that South African women are too consciously aware of their political power and empowerment, which presents a challenge to his cultural expectations of male dominance in the relationship. He also stated that South African women are financially greedy.
. Interview with ‘William’ and ‘Avel’, Dunbar, Cato Manor, September 2009.
. It is claimed that the reason attacks did not take place in Chesterville, another township in Durban, was because of the strong presence of the Umkhonto weSizwe veterans there.
. http://www.durban.gov.za/durban/government/media/cmn/cmnitem.2008-07-25.8057331980/view, Accessed 27 June 2009
. This was not a unique event. In Durban, police officers who arrested one author for distributing an anti-xenophobia leaflet on July 2, 2010, just before the World Cup’s Ghana-Uruguay match – the crime was termed ‘ambush marketing’ – confirmed in a taped conversation that City Manager Sutcliffe had explicitly ordered, ‘No distribution of pamphlets, especially which mention xenophobia.’ The reasoning, according to a police superintendent, was that ‘You are reminding [people] of xenophobia. Even myself I had forgot about that thing, but now you write it down’ (Bond 2010).
. Conversation with Siyagunda Leadership, September 2009.
. Conversation with a South African and shop owner, 11 September 2009, Queen Street.
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