I was surprised to learn earlier this week about the news of foreigners being attacked in South Africa. When I thought about it though, I was not surprised; in a country of a population of 47.9 million people (2007 est.) they have a 25.5% unemployment rate (2006 est.). Speaking to a friend of mine who I went to high school with, he was telling me that the unemployment rate is in fact higher than the stated figure in 2008 which is why people are turning to violence with regards to the number of illegal immigrants in the country. These immigrants/refugees are perceived to be stealing job’s which in a country of high unemployment is not something to be taken lightly.
A quick refresher on some geography, South Africa has no border to the South as I don’t think the penguins would want to migrate into hot weather. South Africa does have a porous border to the north where it borders Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. The problem in recent years is that with corruption, economic mismanagement and a lackluster border force; South Africa has become a haven for people seeking better opportunities or simply to flee from their repressive governments in the case of many Zimbabweans. From the Independent:
An estimated five million refugees live in South Africa, 3.5 million of who are believed to be Zimbabweans fleeing violence and economic chaos under Robert Mugabe. Gangs targeting refugees claim immigrants get preferential housing treatment, taking scarce jobs and committing crime.
President Mbeki later made this statement:
Citizens from other countries on the African continent and beyond are as human as we are and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. South Africa is not and will never be an island separate from the rest of the continent.
I admire the President for making this statement and I also believe this applies to the American immigration situation as well but my anger at this point is due to the lack of things being done about the situation. I was watching CNN today and the reporter interviewed someone holding a sharp knife who admitted he was going to stab the next foreigner in the face. That is simply shocking because South Africa is going to host the next Soccer World Cup in 2010, how can this person be the face of the country? I think this incident has damaged South Africa as well as the current electricity crisis, and as much as I like the President for what he said earlier, he has clearly mismanaged the country in a big way.
The good news is that President Mbeki has finally given the go ahead for the army to go in and stop this senseless violence but I fear the damage has already been done to the reputation of the country and any potential foreign investors seeking to put their money in a growing economy. We are all born equal and no person in any country whether they be legal or illegal deserves to be treated like this.
May 21 2008 10:18 pm | South African Politics