The barbaric attacks on immigrants are in essence a protest against a lack of delivery and opportunity. Immigrants are an obvious target; a conductor rod to the storm of discontent that has gathered as inequality, poverty and unemployment in our townships has continued to remain rampant.
The seething anger that has been vented on the streets of our cities illustrates the resentment that, almost fifteen years into our democracy, jobs are scarce and social infrastructure — health, housing, education — is woefully inadequate.
Immigrants, in the eyes of protesters, are simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. They are perceived — all too often unfairly — as job-stealers, criminals and competitors placing unreasonable demands on scarce resources and shaky infrastructure.
In keeping with its hallmark denialism, the government has deludedly suggested that the appalling attacks on immigrants are the works of criminal elements — or even a shadowy third force. This only goes to show how out of touch the ruling party is with the majority of its constituents.
Until the government stops passing the buck through misattributing the cause of xenophobia, inequality will remain entrenched — and service delivery and social upliftment will never be the urgent priorities that they should be.
The ANC has become the default oppressor of the people because, while enriching its own elite, it has done little to change a status quo that remains rooted in South Africa’s unjust history of colonialism and apartheid. Self-enrichment amongst a politically connected few has flourished while life for many in this country remains much the same.
While the government acknowledges our nation’s widening wealth gap, it still advocates BEE to continue unreformed. This is despite the initiative’s obvious inability to redress economic imbalances and despite the fact that BEE pays only lip service to true social transformation.
BEE has been quite correctly described by President Mbeki’s brother as “a formula for co-opting — and perhaps even corrupting — ANC leaders by enriching them as private individuals”.
For xenophobia to be effectively contained, the people’s needs must be met. Efficient service delivery and a radically overhauled economic empowerment programme would be a good place to start.
This post was first published on Monday 26 May on Alex’s Thought Leader page.