Understanding South Africa’s surge of anti-immigrant violence


A man screams holding a stick in front a burning piece of furniturA man screams holding a stick in front a burning piece of furniture during a riot in the Johannesburg suburb of Turffontein on September 2, 2019 as angry protesters loot foreign-owned shops. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

In South Africa, the last two weeks have seen a surge in violence against foreigners and foreign owned businesses. At least 10 people have been killed, and over 400 arrested. Shops have been burned to the ground. The target of most of these attacks have been immigrants from other African countries.

In Nigeria, protesters reciprocated with violence against South African owned businesses. And its government cancelled an important economic summit with South Africa. It’s a situation threatening lives, livelihood, and relations between the two largest economies on the continent.

Many, both inside and outside of South Africa, have been asking where this dangerous anti-foreigner sentiment came from – And how it got so out of control. Some say it’s the ongoing economic problems facing South Africans. But others say, the root cause goes much deeper.

Pinky Khoabane, an independent columnist based in Johannesburg, joined us to talk about this recent surge of violence – and how the anger of these rioters is aimed at the wrong people.

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Pinky Khoabane on Twitter: @pinkykhoabane

Xenophobic violence flares in South Africa (The Economist):