Xenophobia: Be Informed Not to Be Deformed
By Akindoyin Aanuoluwapo
I am afraid of needles for no just reasons, I flee at the sight of a needle, since there is a phobia for everything, I looked it up and I discovered that fear of needle is needle phobia.
Be it as it may, I reminisce and discovered that I am not just afraid of needles, indeed, I’m afraid of every sharp object. When someone moves a pointed knife close to me as a joke, that’s the end of our joke, if someone points anything sharp directly at me, that is the end of our discussion that day and there is nothing the person will say that will make me move close to him/her until the sharp object is dropped or thrown away. Having this fear of sharp objects, I discovered that I’m Aichmophobia
According to Wikipedia definition, Aichmophobia is a kind of specific phobia, the morbid fear of sharp things, such as pencils, needles, knives, a pointing finger, or even the sharp end of an umbrella and different sorts of protruding corners or sharp edges in furniture and building constructions/materials.
I make sure I run away from anything that is a sharp object or anything that looks like sharp objects.
What is a phobia?
According to www.healthline.com, phobias are extreme fears of certain objects, people, animals, activities, or situations that in reality aren’t very dangerous but still cause worry and avoidant behaviors.
While most people experience anxiety from time to time, some phobias cause long-lasting and serious physical and psychological effects.
These effects can be so severe that it becomes much more challenging to perform daily, routine tasks like going to school or work. Phobias can affect adults and children alike.
Since part of the definition of phobia includes fear of people, there are several reasons why someone or a group of people may have a fear of people. But before we examine why someone or a group of people could have fear of other people, let us understand xenophobia.
Literally, the word xenophobia is made up of the Greek words ‘Xenos’, which means strange, or foreigner, and ‘Phobos’, which means fear. Xenophobia is the irrational fear of strangers or foreigners.
The Oxford English Dictionary lists a very strongly worded definition of xenophobia as deep-rooted, irrational hatred towards foreigners. As a result, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action recommend and encourages nations to do all they can to prevent the acquisition or manifestation of xenophobia by its citizens.
There are two types of xenophobia:
· The first type is cultural in nature. Those who are xenophobic are so against the objects and elements of a culture, such as clothing or language.
· The second type of xenophobia is when an entire group is not considered part of society. This can result, most often, from mass immigration by one group into a country, though xenophobia can be present in relation to groups in the society who joined the community quite some time ago. This type of xenophobia can result in hostility and violence on a lower level up to greater persecution of the group through genocide.
When a person is born, the only people that he/she is comfortable around are the parents. Gradually, the child warms up to other family members and slowly gets used to them. His world, for a few years then, is limited only to his family.
A big change is introduced into this world of his when he starts going to school. His circle of comfort now includes his teachers and classmates as well.
What I am trying to say here is that a person, through the course of his life, meets strangers and makes acquaintances. In this process, there are some inhibitions at the beginning, but soon these are overcome. But this is not the case always.
Some people find it difficult to mix with people who they deem are different from them; strangers from a different land. This irrational fear of strangers or foreigners is termed as xenophobia.
There are various reasons that lead to this fear, and they bring out a range of emotions that can vary from a biased attitude to violence.
Difference Between Racism and Xenophobia
Both these can seem similar, but they are not, and the only similarity they possess is that both are intolerable practices responsible for a regressive society. Racism is the hatred towards the people who belong to a different race. Xenophobia, on the other hand, is hatred or fear of people who are perceived as strangers or foreigners having different cultural beliefs.
Causes of Xenophobia
The fear of foreigners can be attributed to the mismatch in the basic thinking process and culture. However, this reason is not all that there is to it. One of the reasons responsible for painting a negative picture of foreigners is their involvement in various crimes. This can create a feeling of alienation, and strangers are seen as someone who have come to reign chaos in the homelands of the local populace.
Another reason is the increase in competition for jobs because of the incoming ‘aliens’. The locals, along with the already existing competition, have to further face steep odds owing to the influx of foreigners. Even in case of the ones who are already employed, replacements are available, rather easily. Thus, foreigners become a threat to their jobs.
There can be a presence of ‘one bad apple’ among the incoming populace. But generalizing one negative experience from one foreigner or a bunch of them, and applying it to every stranger leads to xenophobia. Further, this hatred is passed along among the locals. Along with this, the hatred towards foreigners can be a reciprocated reaction when the roles were reversed.
The incoming strangers are also deemed as a danger to the culture, traditions, and customs of the locals. This is also the reason for the spread of xenophobia, as foreigners are seen as a threat to the local heritage and legacy. The migrations result in sharing of resources, including the natural ones, which can lead to stress on the economy and the general lifestyle of the natives.
Xenophobic people find it stressful when they are exposed to the cultures or people that are unknown to them or they perceive as strange. They are anxious when dealing with people they are not comfortable with, and try to establish a supremacy over them.
Those who are xenophobic do not easily trust, are hostility in their behavior, and can get abusive when dealing with those whom they hate or are afraid of.
What are the effects of xenophobia?
One of the social impacts of Xenophobia is that it breeds an atmosphere of hostility and distrust in society. This can lead to a decline in the number of migrants to that particular society. This, in turn, has a negative impact on the economy, that will be deprived of the influx of talent and resources.
Escalation of this hostility can lead to a spree of violence, like the one seen in South Africa in 2008, which was the result of the prevailing mood in the nation. This xenophobic reaction is not new to the ‘Rainbow Nation’, as there have been several such scenarios in the Apartheid Era there, and these were expected to stop after democratic rule was established in the country in 1994.
The recent hatred towards foreign nationals has, however, proved otherwise.
These attacks in South Africa were prominently against the Nigerians. Nigerians themselves are not unfamiliar with this kind of hatred towards foreigners, as the nation had seen a similar spate of killings in the 1980s when many people of Ghanaian origin were charred to death.
One of the negative effects of xenophobia on a community is that it will, more or less, turn into a closed one, where there will be no introduction of new ideologies, innovations, and thought processes. It will also have long-term effects on the tourists as well, who will be advised against and also prefer not to visit such a volatile region. This will result in the loss of a chunk of revenue, and various industries that come associated with the tourism sector will be hit.
Xenophobia is the general failure to accept ‘others’. It usually builds on the existing bias and prejudiced notions that are prevalent in society. A Sanskrit verse says, ‘AtithiDevoBhava’, which means that a guest is equivalent to God. Well, one is left to wonder, will not this philosophy be helpful in negating the adverse psychological effects that xenophobia has?
Symptoms of Xenophobia
It’s important to know the behaviors and symptoms of xenophobia:
· Being afraid to be near people that are not similar.
· Being angry and volatile near others that are different, even if it is just the culture and
not the person.
· Jumping to conclusions and stereotypes about others seen as different
· Inability to trust or create relationships with others that are different.
· Gaining pleasure from the maltreatment of others that are different.
· Avoidance of areas where dissimilar people congregate in large groups.
Keep in mind that these behaviors are not premeditated, but instead are in reaction to irrational fears that the person has about others. Although the behaviors can be against a certain race, it is not based on race specifically, but more an internal fear of others that they don’t understand.
The reason why people are xenophobic is unknown, much like other phobias. It could be their upbringing, a bad experience, or just the environment they are in.
Xenophobia in South Africa
Prior to 1994, immigrants from elsewhere faced discrimination and even violence in South Africa. After majority rule in 1994, contrary to expectations, the incidence of xenophobia increased. Between 2000 and March 2008, at least 67 people died in what were identified as xenophobic attacks. In May 2008, a series of attacks left 62 people dead; although 21 of those killed were South African citizens.
The attacks were motivated by xenophobia.
In 2015, another nationwide spike in xenophobic attacks against immigrants in general prompted a number of foreign governments to begin repatriating their citizens.
A Pew Research poll conducted in 2018 showed that 62% of South Africans viewed immigrants as a burden on society by taking jobs and social benefits and that 61% of South Africans thought that those immigrants were more responsible for crime than other groups. Between 2010 and 2017 the immigrant community in South Africa increased from 2 million people to 4 million people.
Despite a lack of directly comparable data, xenophobia in South Africa is perceived to have significantly increased after the election of a black majority government in 1994. According to a 2004 study published by the Southern African Migration Project (SAMP):
The ANC government in its attempts to overcome the divides of the past and build new forms of social cohesion … embarked on an aggressive and inclusive nation-building project. One unanticipated by-product of this project has been a growth in intolerance towards outsiders … Violence against foreign citizens and African refugees has become increasingly common and communities are divided by hostility and suspicion.
The study was based on a citizen survey across member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and found South Africans expressing the harshest anti-immigrant sentiment, with 21% of South Africans in favor of a complete ban on foreign entry and 64% in favor of strict limitations on the numbers permitted. By contrast, the next-highest proportions of respondents in favor of a complete ban on immigration were in neighboring Namibia, and Botswana, at 10%.
A 2004 study by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) of attitudes amongst police officers in the Johannesburg area found that 87% of respondents believed that most undocumented immigrants in Johannesburg are involved in crime, despite there being no statistical evidence to substantiate the perception. Such views combined with the vulnerability of illegal aliens led to abuse, including violence and extortion, some analysts argued.
In a March 2007 meeting with Home Affairs Minister NosiviweMapisa-Nqakula, a representative of Burundian refugees in Durban; claimed that immigrants could not rely on police for protection, but instead found police mistreating them, stealing from them and making unconfirmed allegations that they sell drugs. Two years earlier, at a similar meeting in Johannesburg, Mapisa-Nqakula had admitted that refugees and asylum seekers were mistreated by police with xenophobic attitudes.
According to a 1998 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, immigrants from Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique living in the Alexandra township were “physically assaulted over a period of several weeks in January 1995, as armed gangs identified suspected undocumented migrants and marched them to the police station in an attempt to ‘clean’ the township of foreigners.”
The campaign, known as “Buyelekhaya” (go back home), blamed foreigners for crime, unemployment and sexual attacks.
In September 1998, a Mozambican national and two Senegalese citizens were thrown out of a train. The assault was carried out by a group returning from a rally that blamed foreigners for unemployment, crime and the spread of AIDS.
In 2000, seven foreigners were killed on the Cape Flats over a five-week period in what police described as xenophobic murders possibly motivated by the fear that outsiders would claim property belonging to locals.
In October 2001, residents of the Zandspruit informal settlement gave Zimbabwean citizens ten days to leave the area. When the foreigners failed to leave voluntarily, they were forcefully evicted and their shacks were burned down and looted. Community members said they were angry that Zimbabweans were employed whilst locals remained jobless and blamed the foreigners for a number of crimes. No injuries were reported amongst the affected Zimbabweans.
In the last week of 2005 and the first week of 2006, at least 4 people, including 2 Zimbabweans, died in the Olievenhoutbosch settlement after foreigners were blamed for the death of a local man. Shacks belonging to foreigners were set alight and locals demanded that police remove all immigrants from the area.
In August 2006, Somali refugees appealed for protection after 21 Somali traders were killed in July of that year and 26 more in August.
The immigrants believed the murders to be motivated by xenophobia, although police rejected the assertion of a concerted campaign to drive Somali traders out of townships in the Western Cape.
Attacks on foreign nationals increased markedly in late-2007and it is believed that there were at least a dozen attacks between January and May 2008. The most severe incidents occurred on 8 January 2008 when 2 Somali shop owners were murdered in the Eastern Cape towns of Jeffreys Bay and East London, then in March 2008 when 7 people were killed including Zimbabweans, Pakistanis and a Somali national after their shops and shacks were set alight in Atteridgeville near Pretoria.
Causes of xenophobia in South Africa
A report by the Human Sciences Research Council identified 4 broad causes for the violence:
§ Relative deprivation, specifically intense competition for jobs, commodities and
§ Group processes, including psychological categorization processes that are
rather than superordinate
§ South African exceptionalism, or a feeling of superiority in relation to other Africans;
§ Exclusive citizenship or a form of nationalism that excludes others.
A subsequent report, “Towards Tolerance, Law, and Dignity: Addressing Violence against Foreign Nationals in South Africa” commissioned by the International Organization for Migration found that poor service delivery or an influx of foreigners may have played a contributing role, but blamed township politics for the attacks.
It also found that community leadership was potentially lucrative for unemployed people and that such leaders organized the attacks. Local leadership could be illegitimate and often violent when emerging from either a political vacuum or fierce competition, the report said, and such leaders enhanced their authority by reinforcing resentment towards foreigners.
Xenophobia attacks in South Africa
In November 2009, a community of 1500-2500 Zimbabwean farm workers was forcibly evicted from their homes in the informal settlements of De Doorns, a grape-farming town in the Western Cape. No persons were physically assaulted but homes were trashed and looted and this led to the biggest displacement of foreign nationals since May 2008. The Zimbabweans were then housed in a displaced persons’ camp where some remained for a year until it was closed.
Researchers identified the role of a ward councilor, MpumeleloLubisi, in inciting the attack in possible collusion with informal labor brokers who had financial interests in getting rid of their Zimbabwean competitors. South African workers also accused farmers of employing the Zimbabweans at less than minimum wage (farmers and Zimbabwean workers denied this).
On 30 May 2013, 25-year-old Abdi Nasir Mahmoud Good, was stoned to death. The violence was captured on a mobile phone and shared on the Internet.
Three Somali shopkeepers had been killed on June 2013 and the Somali government requested the South African authorities to do more to protect their nationals. Among those murdered were two brothers who were allegedly hacked to death. The attacks led to public outcry and worldwide protests by the Somali diaspora, in Cape Town, London, and Minneapolis.
South African Foreign Minister MaiteNkoana-Mashabane expressed the government’s “strongest condemnation” of the violence which has recently seen looting and the death of a Somali shopkeeper.[
On 7 June 2014, a Somali national, in his 50s, was reportedly stoned to death and two others were seriously injured when the angry mob of locals attacked their shop in extension 6 late on Saturday. Three more Somalis were wounded from gunshots and shops were looted.
In April 2015, there was an upsurge in xenophobic attacks throughout the country. The attacks started in Durban and spread to Johannesburg.
In October 2015 there were sustained xenophobic attacks in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. It as reported than more than 500 people were displaced and more than 300 shops and homes looted and, in some cases, destroyed altogether. In these attacks, Muslims were specifically targeted.
From 20–23 June 2016 a wave of riots hit the City of Tshwane. Although the riots were sparked by political discontent within the ANC, Somali, Pakistani and other foreign-owned shops and micro-enterprises were targeted for looting and a number of foreigners were attacked.
On the 25 March, 2019 xenophobic riots targeting African immigrants broke out in Sydenham, Jadhu Place and Overport areas of Durban. Around one hundred people attacked businesses owned by foreign nationals resulting in around 50 people seeking shelter in a local police station and mosque. Three people were killed in the riot.
A speech given by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC’s election manifesto for the 2019 South African general election was blamed for contributing to xenophobic feeling wherein Ramaphosa committed to cracking down on undocumented foreigners involved in criminal activities. The attack on foreigners was criticized by both the South African government and political parties amidst calls to ensure that xenophobic sentiment was not exploited for electoral purposes.
On 1 September 2019 riots and looting targeting shops owned by foreign nationals broke out in Jeppestown and Johannesburg CBD following the death of a taxi driver. By the 3 September police had made 189 arrests for looting. Around 50 businesses predominantly owned by Africans from the rest of the continent were reportedly destroyed or damaged during the incident.
The riots coincided with a nation-wide truck driver strike protesting against the employment of non-South African truckers. In September 2019, 640 Nigerians signed up to take free flights to Nigeria amidst attacks on foreigners.
In wake of xenophobic attacks, South Africa deploys envoys
South Africa has sent out special envoys to explain the government’s position on the recent wave of attacks on foreign nationals and their businesses.
The country has come under criticism for failing to quickly end the attacks that left 12 people dead, hundreds displaced, and property worth millions of dollars looted or destroyed. President Cyril Ramaphosa says South Africans are not xenophobic and he wants the rest of Africa to know this.
Ramaphosa says diplomats have been dispatched to several African countries, including Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, with a clear mandate of repairing the country’s image.
A man looks at cars that were burned during the latest spate of xenophobic attacks, at a car dealership in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sept. 5, 2019.
“To go and explain what has happened and also to offer our apologies. And for those who have been killed, our condolences, and for those who have been injured as well. We have got to do it because our standing on the continent has always been high and this has lowered it quite considerably,” said Ramaphosa.
He said the team will also visit the African Union to assure the continental body of his country’s commitment to the ideals of Pan-Africanism and African unity.
“We would not want to see that happening to our own nationals, who are in other countries around the world because South Africans have spread themselves around the world,” said the president.
Attacks and hostility in other African countries
Protesters throw rocks at policemen during an attack on South African business in Abuja, Nigeria, Sept. 4, 2019.
After the attacks in South Africa, South African businesses and embassies in Nigeria and Zambia were attacked.
Ramaphosa felt the hostility at the funeral of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe in Harare, where the crowd booed him throughout his speech.
Back home there is still no agreement on how to explain the recent attacks on foreign nationals.
TebohoMashota, a human rights lawyer, referred to the attacks as clear acts of xenophobia which government should take full responsibility for.
“What is happening currently is as a result of the incitement from our government. The utterances that they have been making, blaming all the problems of the city of Jo’burg, to say it’s migrants basically. Because the streets are dirty, it’s migrants. It’s crime because of migrants,” said the lawyer.
But the country’s chief justice, MogoengMogoeng, insists that hunger is the cause, not xenophobia.
“Why are intellectuals who are South Africans not attacking other intellectuals who come from other African countries? Why are executives in the corporate sector not attacking Africans who come from other African countries? They have [enough] to eat. They have jobs. They have opportunities,” he said.
Nigerians queue at passport control at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sept. 11, 2019.
Last week, hundreds of foreign nationals affected by the attacks in South Africa, including Zimbabweans, Mozambicans and Nigerians, were airlifted to their home countries. A Zimbabwean group carried home the body of a man who was burnt to death during the attacks.
Experts warn that if the South African government does not address socio-economic conditions and poor policing that allowed the attacks to happen, the violence will resurface again.
South Africa President apologizes
South Africa President has apologized to Nigeria over a spate of xenophobic attacks which led to a spike in tensions between the two countries.
Twelve people were killed earlier this month when mobs attacked foreign-owned businesses, mainly in Johannesburg.
A special envoy from South Africa presented an apology to Nigeria’s President Muhammad Buhari on Monday.
The envoy, Jeff Radebe, expressed the country’s “sincerest apologies” at a meeting in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
He said, “The incident does not represent what we stand for and South African police would leave no stone unturned in bringing those involved to justice.”
Mr. Radebe also told President Buhari that the South African government condemned the violence and was taking decisive action.
President Buhari thanked Mr. Radebe for “coming to explain to us what happened in South Africa recently, leading to [the] killing and displacement of foreigners”.
“President Buhari responded to profuse apologies from the South African president, pledging that the relationship between the two countries will be solidified,” a statement from his office said.
At the end of last week, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa told the BBC that he felt ashamed by the recent violence.
He said, “We are very concerned and of course as a nation, we [are] ashamed because this goes against the ethos of what South Africa stands for.”
No Nigerians were killed in the violence in South Africa, but Nigerian-owned shops and businesses are believed to have been targeted by the mobs.
Of the 12 people who were killed, 10 are reported to have been South African nationals and two were from Zimbabwe.
Nigeria has been outspoken in its condemnation of the violence. A fortnight ago, it withdrew a delegation from a major international conference taking place in South Africa.
Tensions were inflamed after videos and images were shared on social media purporting to show Nigerians being attacked and killed. The Nigerian government said there was no evidence that this had taken place.
But it did say that Nigerian-owned businesses had been targeted.
The attacks started after lorry drivers staged a strike to protest against the employment of foreigners.
South Africa has become a magnet for migrants from other parts of Africa as it has one of the continent’s biggest and most developed economies.
Evacuation of Nigerians
But there is also high unemployment in the country and some people feel foreigners are taking their jobs.
While the diplomatic mission is taking place, Nigeria has continued to evacuate its citizens from the country.
Last week, Nigeria’s Consul General Godwin Adama said only those who were under distress as a result of the attacks would leave South Africa.
More than 300 Nigerians are expected to arrive in Lagos this week. Last week, 188 evacuees arrived back.