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Frustrated South Africans lash out on foreign nationals

08.09.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
At the time Africa through its political leaders is striving to change the economic status quo of the continent, border disputes, ideological wars, radicalization among other things, have become major challenges the leaders are faced with. The most recent is the spat between Frustrated South African Youths and foreign nationals residing in the southern African nation. Relations between the Republic of South Africa and Nigeria have taken another twist in recent times after what the world has termed as xenophobia resurfaced in the southern African nation. It is no doubt that the acts of cruelty were not only meted on Nigerians alone; other nationals from Malawi and elsewhere on the continent have suffered the same fate in South Africa. Usually, their targets are Nigerian nationals. Even though xenophobic attacks have been recurrent in South Africa in the last months, the September row attracted both continental and international condemnation after frustrated South African youths went on rampage, attacking foreign nationals based in the country. These supposed neglected youths have always vented their frustrations on foreigners working or doing business in South Africa, claiming that these foreign nationals have hijacked jobs meant for the population of South Africa.

However, These supposed neglected youths have always vented their frustrations on foreigners working or doing business in South Africa, claiming that these foreign nationals have hijacked jobs meant for the population of South Africa. However, these violent youths noted that they were retaliating against acts of criminality perpetrated by foreigners in the country. Many people have asked questions like; are foreigners the only people dealing in drugs, is killing of foreigners the solution to their problems, doesn’t the south African government have legal institutions in place to try people involved in acts of criminality, why are Africans prejudiced by South Africans? All these questions and many more remain unanswered in the minds of many people across the continent.

Youth unemployment verses xenophobic attacks

Primarily, many schools of thought have argued that the recurrent xenophobic attacks on foreigners in South Africa is as a result of youth unemployment in the country. This is partly because these heinous acts are perpetrated by young, vibrant but frustrated and idle South Africans, with a tainted philosophy that, it is due to the presence of foreigners in their country that they cannot have jobs, thus, unleash of anger. In present day society, youth unemployment is still a major debate in South Africa, despite it being one of the most advanced economies on the Continent. In the second half of 2019, unemployment stood at 29%. According to a release by the department of statistics South Africa in May 2019, the country has the highest youth unemployment rate as compared to other countries in the world. Stats SA noted that vulnerability of youths remains high in the job market in South Africa. In the first half of 2019, unemployment among youths aged 15 to 24 stood at 55.2%, quite disturbing for a nation like South Africa. But does this guarantee the inhumane acts on foreign nationals? This is a problematic that has pushed many into thinking that there is more to the attacks than what meets the eyes.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s quest to tackle youth unemployment

After taking over the leadership of South Africa following the resignation of then President Jacob Zuma, President Cyril Ramaphosa inherited everything positive and negative, with youth unemployment being one of the major challenges to deal with.  That notwithstanding, prior to his election in 2019, Ramaphosa pledged to tackle youths’ myriad problems including education and unemployment.  The incumbent said that his government was going to give priority to vocational and technical education among youths to enable them  excel in the professional world after completing their education; a way of economically empowering youths and tackling unemployment at the same time (grooming entrepreneurs). In one of his addresses to South African youths, president Ramaphosa said: “Our young people need the necessary tools that they can use to navigate the changes these bring to the workplace and seize the opportunities that they present’’. Reacting to the recent xenophobic acts on foreign nationals, president Ramaphosa bewailed it, warning his people that no crime had warranted such cruelty on foreign nationals or immigrants presumed to be drug dealers.  As clearly defined by President Ramaphosa, a people that want to live in harmony must address grievances in a more democratic way, slamming South Africans for attacking immigrants. At least 45 persons from different nationalities in the continent have been burned or killed in the last few days.  The South African government has however denied claims that its citizens are xenophobic and ‘Afrophobic’, saying that its citizens live in harmony with foreigners.

Uneasy ties between Nigeria and South Africa

The recent xenophobic attacks on Nigerians based in South Africa has tainted the diplomatic ties between the two nations. The government and people of Nigeria retaliated after their citizens were reported to have been tortured and killed by angry South Africans who claimed to have been fighting a drug war or acts of criminality carried out by Nigerians in Johannesburg and elsewhere in the country ( South African businesses like Shoprite, MTN etc., came under attack in Nigeria  in retaliation). Nigeria immediately recalled its ambassador following the recent feud, demanding that the South African government compensates for the damage and loss of lives. Apart from dealing with the xenophobic attacks, the government of President Cyril Ramaphosa has another challenge of mending its diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Effects of xenophobic attacks on the African continental free trade area

As minimal as the situation may look, people may perceive that the recent xenophobic attacks in south Africa does not only affect its diplomatic ties with other countries, but it also poses a threat to the yet to be implemented continental free trade area. How can Africa talk of a free trade zone when border disputes and prejudice are tearing the continent apart? AfCFTA advocates for a continent void of border conflicts, peaceful business atmosphere, and easy circulation of people, goods and services with little or no barriers.  Nonetheless, the challenge goes back to the African Union and its leaders to bring countries into settling their differences for the good and proper realization of Africa’s trade or economic zone.

Article from AFRIC editorial

Photo Credit : google image/ illustration

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