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Archive for the tag “xenophobia”

Unemployment and xenophobia – the root causes

A clear and concise account of the root causes of the recent outbreaks of xenophobic violence in many parts of the country.

Hat-tip to Dion Forster.

clipped from www.witness.co.za

The brutal attacks on foreign refugees which have brought shame on our brave new democracy are the direct result of the interaction of two failed government policies — one caused by the old ANC leadership and the other at least partially by the new.
The first is the failure over eight years to develop a foreign policy to prevent the implosion of neighbouring Zimbabwe, and of dealing with its inevitable consequences as millions of destitute refugees have poured into our society. For that the Thabo Mbeki administration, particularly the president himself, must take full blame.
The other is the failure over the past 10 years of unprecedented economic growth to ensure that more was done to reduce unemployment and close the wealth gap, so that we did not develop such a tinderbox of disadvantaged groups struggling to survive on the margins of our big cities — the very areas where the refugees land up to intensify competition for the meagre opportunities available.

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Compassion fatigue

Many South African bloggers have been writing about xenophobia recently, as have the news media. It’s become the topic du jour among the chattering classes, in which I must include myself. What has not really been heard, however, is the voice of the perpetrators or the victims. They seem to be keeping very, very quiet.

Sue in Cyprus recently posted this Abstractions: Head, Heart and Hypocrisy?

Is it preferable that 1000 people die in an earthquake, or that one person hurts their finger?

It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? One person in a bit of pain is almost nothing when compared to the agony and loss of even ten people in an earthquake, let alone 1000.

Now imagine two scenarios:

1. You see on the news that 1000 more people have perished in an earthquake on the other side of the globe

2. Someone accidentally closes a door on your little finger, almost crushing it completely

Which one causes you more physical pain? Obviously the second.

And then I saw this The Corner::

Compared with disasters like the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, those in China and Myanmar have generated just a trickle of aid. As of Friday, Americans had given about $12.1 million to charities for Myanmar, according to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. The group said on Monday that it was too soon to count contributions to China.

wikipedia defines it as:

Compassion fatigue is a term that refers to a gradual lessening of compassion over time. Compassion fatigue may occur when, due to the media saturation of stories and images of people who are suffering (e.g. images of starving children in Africa, or extended war reporting) people develop a resistance to these images or stories. As the impact of these messages lessens, their willingness to give to causes reduces.

And that reminded me of a book I had read nearly 40 years ago, which had the following to say on the subject:

I have before me the current issue of the New Christian in which the General Secretary of the British Council of Churches, Dr Kenneth Sansbury, reported on the Crete meeting of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches. One paragraph runs as follows: ‘The Central Committee reiterated what it had already said about Viet Nam, called for full religious liberty in Spain, and offered the services of a mediator in Nigeria. It expressed serious concern over the world’s food gap and protested against racial discrimination.’ It is little wonder that the Church has almost ceased to be the target of satirical comedians. Not even the sharpest wit amongst them can parody us as effectively as we parody ourselves. But the image conjured up by that extraordinary paragraph ought to have been worth five minutes of the ‘Frost Report’ — this august body of men, trotting metaphorically around the world expressing concern at this, grave concern at that, and very grave concern at something else.

Their sentiments were, I am sure, genuine. But it was that old word game again. We are vitally concerned about human suffering because we keep on and on and on saying so. But as a bed-rock Christian operation, it is all phoney, and the world knows it is phoney by simple logic. No human beings, even princes of the Church, have got that much compassion in them to pour out. They might look Nigeria in the face, glance at Viet Nam and shudder, but long before they reached the problem of world hunger they would be drained, voiceless and broken. And those good men would have adjourned that meeting greyer at the temples, utterly aghast at the enormity of what they had seen.

But so long as we need only wrestle with issues, our range is unlimited. We can tut-tut our way into, through and out of every problem on the entire globe, demands of the Agenda and tea breaks permitting.

I write not in anger but in contrition, for I too have played that particular word game. I have been responsible for more than my fair share of pious resolutions, only one of which, demanding majority rule in what was then Northern Rhodesia, really cost me anything personally. For the rest, like Hans Anderson’s little tailor, I have killed as many as seven or eight political issues with one blow in a single session of the Methodist Conference, merely by raising my hand dutifully at the appropriate moment.

The book is Include me out: confessions of an ecclesiastical coward by Colin Morris, a Methodist minister in Zambia. I read it the day before I was to write a doctrine exam. I tossed up in my mind whether to read the magic book, Doctrines of the Creed by Professor Quicke, the previous head of the Department of Theoloy at Durham University, or Include me out. The point about the magic book is that if you read it, you pass. I found Include me out too absorbing to put down, so I opeted to ad lib the exam. I passed the exam, but I don’t think that I’ve lived up to what Colin Morris was saying in the 40 years since I first read his book.

In the example Sue gives of the earthquake and the little finger, we like to say “I feel your pain”. But we don’t. We don’t even feel it when it’s someone else’s little finger.

And I’ve played the same game of passing resolutions, and dutifully raised my hand to vote for a resolution that condemns this or that injustice “in the strongest possible terms” (isn’t it funny that such resolutions never use strong terms, but like to say that they do?)

I remember the story in the Acts of the Apostles, where the first deacons were appointed to meet the needs of the makwerekwere widows who were being neglected in the distribution. They weren’t appointed to feel their pain, but to give them food.

And then I remember the occasion when I actually sponsored a resolution at an Anglican synod, aimed at beefing up the ministry of deacons. At that time there was a drought in Zululand, and all sorts of people were sending aid, but it wasn’t getting to the people who really needed it. It was getting to the people who had superior access to the means of communication so that they learnt about it first. Let it be known that the church is distributing second-hand clothing to the destitute, and every second-hand clothes dealer in town will be there, pleading poverty, but the destitute won’t even get in the door.

One of the (theoretical) jobs of deacons in the Anglican Church was to seek out the sick, poor and impotent people of the parish and notify their names to the curate, so that they might be relieved by the alms of parishioners and others. The problem was that deacons never stayed deacons long enough to even begin to do that, and even in the short time they were around, they were too busy thinking of becoming priests. But the sy6nod was not concerned to make deacons more effective, it was more concerned about tomorrows headlines, and resolutions expressing grave concern at someone else’s problems were more newsworthy. So when the resolution about changing the way of recruiting, training and deploying deacons came up, the synod voted to pass to the next business. Grave concern trumps action every time.

The "third force" behind xenophobic violence?

Could the ugly face of capitalism be behind the violence against foreigners that we have seen over the last couple of months?

There have been taxi wars in the past, now it seems to have spread to other businesses.

clipped from www.rekord.co.za

Foreigners say the senseless violence in Atteridgeville and Mamelodi has been brewing for months.

Members of the Burundian and Rwandan communities say the attacks are planned and co-ordinated.
Abdul Hakim Mohamed, chairperson of the Somali Community Board of South Africa, says he believes there is a deeper cause for the widespread xenophobic violence.
“Rival business owners in the communities we serve, see us as serious competition.”
He claims that some local business owners actually pay youngsters in townships to loot and burn foreign businesses.
Abdul gave Rekord a copy of what he said was a written threat from a Mamelodi business organisation.

Abdul says he handed the letter to the Mamelodi East police but no action was taken.
Director Nkisikwethu Sithole, from the Mamelodi East police, denied receiving the letter.

“If we receive more evidence on this matter we will start an investigation,” he says.
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83 immigration detainees in the USA died in custody in 5 years

In South Africa immigrants have died at the hands of xenophobic mobs, rather than at the hands of government agencies.

In other news from Washington, two top Bush administration officials are expected to come under questioning today over the treatment of immigration prisoners in US custody. Several reports have emerged recently of detainee deaths and forcible injections of psychotropic drugs. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other top Democrats will question Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Immigration and Customs Enforcement head Julie Myers. According to the Washington Post, eighty-three detainees have died in custody or soon after during the past five years.

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posters and notice | dionysus stoned

See the rest at posters and notice | dionysus stoned

Paid to kill foreigners

Xenophobia, racism and the media: there are some more than usually disturbing elements about this report, and some others about xenophobic violence against foreigners.

clipped from www.sowetan.co.za

A Soweto hostel resident has told police that he was paid to carry out the attacks on foreign nationals in the township.

The man was arrested with six others who looted houses belonging to those they believed were foreign nationals in White City, Jabavu, on Sunday night.

The violence which had claimed the lives of 22 people since last week, had been spreading like wild fire in Gauteng townships.

The Soweto police, however, also issued a stern warning to against anyone who dared to mount xenophobic attacks in the township. They said they would do everything in their power to prevent large scale black-on-black violence.

In the 1990s a third force element was responsible for black-on-black attacks that claimed the lives of thousands of people in the townships.

Basani Sondlane, a Tsonga-speaking South African, whose RDP house was looted, said she was alerted by her neighbours that Nancefield Hostel dwellers were coming.

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Many have suspected that the xenophobic violence in Gauteng over the last couple of months has been deliberately instigated by a group of people bent on fanning the flames of hatred. There are stories of people arriving taxis and doing this. Also, the fact that the violence flares up in one place, and then starts up in another. It looks suspiciously like an arsonist trying to start a veld fire — setting light to a patch of grass here, and another patch there, until the whole hillside is ablaze. But this is the first account indicating that the police have evidence that this may be what is happening.

What is even more disturbing, however, is the use of the term “black-on-black violence” in this and other reports. This seems to indicate that our media (and the police, since it was quoting a police spokesman) are still racist, and that we haven’t really moved on from apartheid.

When Yugoslavia erupted into violence 16 years ago, did any reports call it “white-on-white violence”? I can’t remember any. So what does blackness have to do with violence that whiteness doesn’t?

I suggest thart thwe term “black-on-black violence” is a deliberately racist attempt to implant the idea that black people are inherently violent. When white people are violent, it’s just violence. But when black people are violent, somehow the word “black” has to be brought into association with the term “violence” when reporting it.

I hope never again to have to read that term.

It’s nasty, it’s ugly, and it’s racist.

Telling it like it is – why xenophobia

A lot of the blame for the growing xenophobia among ordinary South Africans must be laid at the door of the government, says Justice Malala.

The Times – A simple recipe for xenophobia:

A cocktail of factors, mixed by the ANC over the past 10 years, is responsible for the barbarism.

These people are behaving like barbarians because the ANC has failed — despite numerous warnings — to act on burning issues that are well known for having sparked similar eruptions across the globe.

This cocktail is made up of stubborn denialism on Zimbabwe, an increasingly incompetent and corrupt police service, poor service delivery and corruption in government departments.

The crime-does-pay culture fostered by the ANC — criminals such as the Travelgate fraudsters walk away scot-free — is a central ingredient of the cocktail.

But the bulk of the cocktail comprises the failed state that is Zimbabwe. The country’s economy has collapsed. Its political leaders, security services and agents are looting the treasury. Zimbabweans are fleeing.

Malala tells it like it is, and there is no point in repeating what he says, far better than I could.

But a few points could be added. The police and immigration officials have harassed foreigners, even those who have valid residence permits, and tried to extort bribes from them, because of the culture of impunity. The move to incorporate the Scorpions into the police is part of this culture of impunity. But this attitude of the police encourages xenophobia. When South African passengers in taxis see foreigners being singled out for bullying, it sets an example that people follow.

South African observers of earlier Zimbabwean elections have said they were not free and fair, but they were told to say that they were free and fair, so they did.

I get the impression that Thabo Mbeki has shrunk over the years. When he first became deputy president, I regarded him as one of those who had fought for our freedom, but he has become more and more gnome-like. Back in 1991, at the time of the break-up of the Soviet Union, there was a communist-backed coup attempt. Gorbachev was on holiday at the Black Sea and was held incommunicado for several days, while Yeltsin in Moscow faced down the coup leaders. A few days later a cartoon appeared in some newspapers showing Yeltsin driving a car, with Gorbachev strapped into a child seat on the passenger side. Now one gets the impression that Mugabe is driving the car, and Mbeki is strapped in the child seat.

The government does not want to acknowledge that there are enormous numbers of refugees from Zimbabwe at present in South Africa, because to do so would be to acknowledge that there is a problem in Zimbabwe. And, sad to say, Zimbabweans are often better educated and harder-working than South Africans. Nearly 15 years after the end of apartheid, the government has failed to repair the damage done to the education system by Christian National Education. A whole generation of school children have gone through school without seeing very much improvement. By now, the school system in Zimbabwe has probably collapsed, but the average Zimbabwean aged between 25 and 35 is probably far better educated than their South African counterparts, and so find it easier to get jobs.

No one in their right mind expects Thabo Mbeki to behave like George Bush and to invade Zimbabwe to bring about regime change, but he could at least say something in favour of justice, freedom and democracy. We’ve heard his excuses for his impotence for the last eight or nine years now, and he’s still strapped in the child seat and can’t reach the steering wheel and the pedals, and his toy steering wheel fools no one but him.

Time to rename Gauteng?

Yesterday I listened to the news on the car radio, and they were talking about xenophobic violence “that started in Gauteng last weekend in Alexandra” and went on to say that it had since spread to other places.

Gauteng used to be the North Sotho name for Johannesburg, and was given to the rather awkwardly-named PWV province. The trouble is that for many, including the Joburg-based media, “Gauteng” still means Johannesburg and perhaps the Witwatersrand, but not outlying areas like Pretoria and Vereeniging. I once heard one radio announcer refer several times to “The Gauteng phone code 011”.

While Joburg-based journalists write about xenophobia, they seem to suffer from xenoamnesia, and to forget that Tshwane is also a part of Gauteng, and that xenophobic violence occurred here several weeks before it appeared in Alex. But for the chattering classes it was in a foreign country until it appeared south of the Jukskei. Only then did it reach Gauteng.

Perhaps we need another name for Gauteng, one that is not so closely linked with Johannesburg.

Time to rename Gauteng?

Yesterday I listened to the news on the car radio, and they were talking about xenophobic violence “that started in Gauteng last weekend in Alexandra” and went on to say that it had since spread to other places.

Gauteng used to be the North Sotho name for Johannesburg, and was given to the rather awkwardly-named PWV province. The trouble is that for many, including the Joburg-based media, “Gauteng” still means Johannesburg and perhaps the Witwatersrand, but not outlying areas like Pretoria and Vereeniging. I once heard one radio announcer refer several times to “The Gauteng phone code 011”.

While Joburg-based journalists write about xenophobia, they seem to suffer from xenoamnesia, and to forget that Tshwane is also a part of Gauteng, and that xenophobic violence occurred here several weeks before it appeared in Alex. But for the chattering classes it was in a foreign country until it appeared south of the Jukskei. Only then did it reach Gauteng.

Perhaps we need another name for Gauteng, one that is not so closely linked with Johannesburg.

Xenophilia versus xenophobia

There have been many media reports of incidents of xenophobia recently, where the homes of illegal aliens and refugees have been burnt down (sometimes with the people inside) that this comment on Roger Saner’s blog Beyond the Boerewors Curtain: Zimbabwe for the weekend comes as a refreshing change:

A few of us have started the 100% tip challenge. It works like this: when we eat at a restaurant we ask the waiter where they’re from. If they’re from Zimbabwe we tip them 100%. It’s amazing how many Zimbabweans are working in Gauteng, serving as a lifeline to their family’s back home.

Of course once the word spreads in the catering industry you’ll probably find that every single waiter in every single restaurant is an expatriate Zimbabwean! But it’s the thought that counts.

Last night at the Vespers of Love at St Nicholas of Japan Orthodox Church in Brixton, Johannesburg, we read the Gospel in several different languages, as is the custom. At the end of the service Azar Jammine, one of the parish leaders, remarked that when we started the parish 21 years ago, we wanted it to be a truly multi-ethnic Orthodox Church, and that vision was being realised right now: the priest, from Kenya, read the gospel in Swahili. A Congolese student read it in Latin. An student Angolan read it in Portuguese. A Greek read it in Turkish.

And somehow some of the words we sang seemed to stand out more than usual:

This is the day of resurrection.
Let us be illumined by the feast. Let us embrace each other.
Let us call “Brothers” even those that hate us, and forgive all by the resurrection, and so let us cry:

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling down death by death
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life.

We sing it every year. But this year it seemed more real. Let us call “Brothers” even those that hate us. Let us replace xenophobia by xenophilia.

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