Monday, May 26, 2008

South Africa: The end of the rainbow nation?


The Canberra Times,
May 24, 2008


It shouldn't surprise us that South Africa's townships are embroiled in fresh violence. Apartheid was South Africa's Berlin Wall. It was the great divider. With its passing, poor black South Africans, accustomed to prejudice but more disaffected, have turned on those they think are robbing them of better lives.

This past week dozens of foreigners, other Africans, have been killed by South Africa's poor. Tens of thousands more have fled into refugee shelters since the violence began earlier this month in the Johannesburg township of Alexandra. Locals with the support of trade unions and some sections of the media accuse outsiders of stealing jobs and fueling a spate of crime. The tensions have been there for years.

But what is surprising is the intensity and rapidity of the violence. Opportunistic mobs have raped women and burnt former neighbours to death. The xenophobic violence has spread from poor areas of Johannesburg to Cape Town and Durban, South Africa's third-largest city. It has been fanned by locals with nothing else to do and hammer-wielding gangsters ready to exploit them.

Have foreigners brought South Africa a new wave of crime?

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