The Problem Is Bigger Than Xenophobia

The violence happening in South Africa is appalling. It can never be justified.

De deur camp refugees
File photoTawe/Zplit / Foter / CC BY

My only concern, as with many other public reactions, is that people seem to turn a blind eye on one group and only make an uproar for specific individuals. This pattern has been consistent. You see it happening with regards to terrorism, corruption scandals…the list is endless.

With regards to South Africa, over 43 people are murdered in South Africa each day. The world average for murder is 7.6 per 100 000 people. Murder in South Africa is 36.5 per 100 000 and this is not even because of xenophobia. In fact South Africa competes with countries like Honduras on murder statistics. In 2011/12 alone 16,000 people were murdered in South Africa.

Consistent with where this violence is coming from, KZN has the highest murder rates “per capita”, followed by Western Cape and then Gauteng.

5900 crimes are reported to SAPS every day!

Clearly the problem here is bigger than xenophobia and I think to join the “public” and limit the publics’ and state leaders’ concern to xenophobic attacks is to do grave injustice.

South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world. Despite a rising GDP, poverty, unemployment, income inequality, life expectancy, land ownership, and educational achievement have largely worsened in post-apartheid.

Unemployment for example was 16% in 1995 – in 2014 it was 24%. The number of people living on less than $1 a day has doubled from 2 million in 1994 to 4 million in 2006. 47% of South Africans are classified as impoverished [living under US$45 per month]. Unemployment is mainly concentrated among unskilled blacks, who comprise 90% of the unemployed.

I am sure by now you are saying, “But still, this doesn’t justify this brutality!!” Agreed BUT look, this brutality has been happening all along. There are 47 other murder cases that happened today that have gone uncovered by the media AND THAT IS NOT RIGHT.

South Africa may be able quell these xenophobic attacks but it if does not deal with the underlying issues of income inequality as well as increasing access to basic needs like employment for example, it will be white washing the more serious issues.

I do hope though that South Africa will be able to solve its problems. Its role in Africa’s development, peace and security can never be overstated.

[Data sources: World Bank Country Data, OECD, Crime SA]

Collin Bhiza is a Research Consultant at a local management and human resources consulting firm. He writes in his own capacity.