n South African Journal of Psychiatry - Xenophobia - evolved 'outgroup' hatred or product of a toxic social environment? : editorial

Volume 14, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1608-9685
  • E-ISSN: 2078-6786



During May 2008, xenophobic attacks broke out against African migrants and refugees in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, leading to at least 50 deaths and the displacement of several thousand people. These events attracted much media attention and were condemned by politicians, community leaders and academic institutions. Of course such crises provide good opportunities for politicians to make mileage, and their proclamations should be received with a healthy dose of scepticism. But, interestingly, some of the responses come fairly close to identifying real causal factors behind the xenophobic violence. For example, in a statement in mid-June, Jacob Zuma identified 'poverty' and 'poor service delivery' as the major factors behind the attacks. He is quoted as saying, 'the conditions of the informal settlements themselves are actually responsible for people to behave in a particular way'.

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