oa Global Media Journal - African Edition - Is it really xenophobia in South Africa or an intentional act of prejudice?

Volume 9, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 2073-2740



The recurrent xenophobic cultural environment in South Africa is both bloody and causes political fluidity. It is quite ironic that after twenty-one years of the first elections in South Africa, xenophobic violence against foreign nationals has worsened. Perhaps, such wide-spread xenophobic attacks have exploded since 1994 in provinces such as Gauteng, Western Cape, Free State, Limpopo and KwaZulu Natal.

There is a need for some fresh insights on the obvious psychological nature of the prevailing violence in a society that brags being democratic. It is thus important to contextualize some possible explanations behind this endless cycle of hate and violence against foreigners in South Africa. According to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), xenophobia is "the deep dislike of non-nationals by nationals of a recipient state." However, the term also reflects an acute state of hate, racism and violence, the usage of prejudiced discourses that stigmatize people, and the making of negative assumptions leading to grudge, revenge and destruction on the basis of nationality.
This attitude towards foreigners is traced to different reasons. Some attribute it to scarce resources. Some ascribe it to the nature of society itself being destructive and antagonistic for different historical reasons. Some relate it to economic disparity and frustrations. Others find it rooted in the ethnic and racial identity of primordial societies. Still others claim that the locals believe that foreigners are criminals who are granted access to services and police protection, so they need to be pushed away by different types of harm (psychological, physical and killing).
In all cases, South Africa is facing a crisis of image restoration regarding the fact that its locals do not like the presence of refugees, asylum-seekers or foreigners in their communities, and that they will use what it takes to punish them for being on the South African soil.
The present research not only aims to discuss xenophobia as a concept descriptive of a socially observable phenomenon, but also sets out to examine and compare cross-cultural scholarship on negative attitudes toward immigrants. The key issue that this research tackles is possible motivations, causes, and triggers of this violence.

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