Xenophobic Attacks in Johannesburg, South Africa
May 21, 2008 12:10 PM   Subscribe

Xenophobic violence breaks out in Johannesburg and around South Africa. The victims of these attacks have been primarily poor foreigners living in townships and shack settlements. Durban-based shack dwellers' movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo (previously) have posted an incisive and informative response. More coverage of the events here and here. Photo galleries here and here.
posted by huffa (12 comments total)
the second photo link has been a bit spotty - I think it's been getting a lot of traffic - but if and when it works it IMO has the best photos of the events
posted by huffa at 12:11 PM on May 21, 2008

Flames of hate
posted by motownoni at 12:25 PM on May 21, 2008

And so it goes...another day in Fuckedupistan.

BTW, the second "here" link leads to a collection of photos from the 2007 Cricket World Cup.
posted by you just lost the game at 12:31 PM on May 21, 2008

damn, its scary, i was traipsing around Alex just in January
posted by infini at 12:58 PM on May 21, 2008

This is so very ironic as many tradgeies often are.

The former regime in SA went in and destroyed parts of these countries, which is one of the reasons the current regime doesn't want to be seen to completely exclude the immigrants.

But Mbeki needs a solid immigration policy, that does not mean EXCLUDE everyone, just some policy decisions which will allow better management and (?possibly?) take some of the heat/hate out of the current crisis.

at very least the fact that there is immigration from all corners, other African, Asia and East European countries is a testament to the sucess of SA as a country.
posted by Wilder at 1:53 PM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's a good post about the situation here.
posted by languagehat at 2:22 PM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I thought the response was quite hopeful. Godspeed the righteous.
posted by DenOfSizer at 2:53 PM on May 21, 2008

the title of this post is a bit misleading... this has actually gone on for a while (as in a couple of weeks) and not broken out just now.

also... it's south africa. big surprise.
posted by krautland at 4:57 PM on May 21, 2008

It's a tragedy. I read the story in the NY Times earlier this week, and was in tears by the end of it. I'm always amazed at the capacity for cruelty that seems to be inherent in the human psyche. Fear of The Other drives people to madness.
posted by dejah420 at 5:35 PM on May 21, 2008

I'm guessing there will be a great deal more of this both in Africa and worldwide in the months and years to come. Natural forces, rising food prices, and political unrest are making people's lives harder, and in response, they're becoming fearful and more tribal, clinging to those like themselves and attacking "others". It's a battle that is taking place both culturally, as in the political polarization here in the US, and all the way down to fists and feet, as is the case here. People of all stripes are using the means at their disposal to secure what they feel they need for themselves, their families, their co-religionists, their countrymen.

I hope to hell I'm wrong. We sure could use some peace and prosperity.
posted by SaintCynr at 5:38 PM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I find it fascinating that there were plans for protests over increasing food prices in South Africa, that were to occur on May 16th. Then this story hit the news, and I saw nothing about the planned protests.

Food prices have indeed seriously increased in South Africa over the last 3 years, and most folks weren't getting much in the way of pay increases (assuming they were fortunate enough to have some pay at all). No doubt this contributes to the rising complaints.

Add to this a host of on-going complaints with the government of Mbeki, and it's no wonder things boil over. A very real problem is the simply that the ruling party is too big. The best thing that could happen would be a split in the ANC. It has out-lived its useful lifespan, and now represents an inadequate status-quo.
posted by Goofyy at 5:56 AM on May 22, 2008

So sad ... I am just back from a 10-day trip to South Africa, half spent in Cape Town and half in Limpopo on safari. While we did not come in direct contact with any violence, the news reports were shocking and frightening. Understandably, events weighed heavily with everyone we spoke to. Being tourists, you had to scratch deeply to get honest opinions because the first response was "...you don't have to worry, you are safe" - the country depends so heavily on tourism dollars and people are understandably worried about losing this source of income.

We went into a few townships on walking tours and "meet the people" tours sponsored by township residents and we were in Langa and Manenberg townships on the night that violence broke out in Cape Town. We were talking about the Joburg xenophobic attacks with our hosts who were very troubled by events, but who said that Cape Town was different and they did not expect violence to take root there - and yet attacks started in another part of their community while they spoke. (The townships are huge, and we did not see or come near any of these incidents.) Many people that we spoke to in the townships and elsewhere were worried for and checking on friends and colleagues of foreign birth. I don't know how much safety their concern would offer - several of the deaths in Johannesburg occurred when neighbors stepped in to try to protect neighbors from attacks - mob violence is truly terrifying.

While Cape Town violence did not rise to the level or severity of attacks in Joburg, that may be of little comfort to the 20,000 who were displaced to camps to ensure safety. While there are some hopeful signs of a grassroots rising up to decry and stop the violence, the governmental and Mbeki's response appears sluggish and tepid, at best. And in a country where unemployment hovers around 40 to 50 percent - or that was the unofficial tally we most often heard cited by residents - the situation is likely to remain volatile.

As a passing tourist, I can't speak with any authority on the ongoing politics of the situation - I can only be sad that a country of such promise is beset with such horror and hope that the generous spirit of the wonderful people that I met will prevail.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:22 AM on May 31, 2008

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