This post is part of the series Xenophobia in South Africa

Other posts in this series:

  1. Xenophobia: We Are The Individualists – Martin van Staden
  2. Xenophobia in South Africa and Nigeria – by Omano Edigheji, PhD
  3. How fears about jobs drive anti-migrant sentiment in South Africa

The recent xenophobic attacks on African immigrants in South Africa is proof of why the country is one of the most miserable in the world. Businesses are closing down, people have lost their jobs and it is having a bad effect on the economy. Although President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned the violence and pledged his government will work to reinstitute peace, immigrants still harbor fears of more attacks.

Human rights advocacy groups have called for further investigations of the recent attacks and the prosecution of individuals behind them. They also called on the South African government to better protect African immigrants. But events are taking more absurd dimensions. 


Xenophobic violence against foreign nationals in South Africa has worsened. South Africa witnessed widespread xenophobic attacks since 1994 in provinces such as Gauteng, Western Cape, Free State, Limpopo, and KwaZulu Natal. — SA History Online.


In the wake of the recent attacks, immigrants living in Eastern Cape Town of Confimvaba alleged the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) and the Intsika Yethu, an indigenous business forum working to integrate businesses in the area, asked immigrants to pay for protection from xenophobic attacks. Despite how unreal this sounds, it is the bitter truth. But if xenophobia is not effectively addressed, the outcomes will trigger more social and cultural miseries. This might even include further unemployment and worse civil unrests across the country.

In May of 2008, 62 people were killed and numerous businesses were looted and closed down. Twenty-seven South Africans were recorded dead out of the 62 people killed. This maims and destruction of lives was needless and must stop.

In May of 2008, 62 people were killed and numerous businesses were looted and closed down. Twenty-seven South Africans were recorded dead out of the 62 people killed. This maims and destruction of lives was needless and it must stop. Xenophobia is evil against humanity. Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court listed persecution against any identifiable group, deportation or forcible transfer of population and others as crimes against humanity. Xenophobia well falls under this category.

The unemployment rate in South Africa is a staggering of 27 percent and xenophobia will only worsen the figures. This is because the businesses owned by immigrants may be forced to close out of fear—many of which indirectly employs hundreds of thousands of South Africans. This will further impoverish South Africa.  Immigrants provide numerous small scale jobs for locals in South Africa. The World Bank found that immigrants create 25 percent of small scale jobs as compared to 16 percent created by locals in the country. 

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that immigrants contributed 9 percent to South Africa’s GDP per capita in 2011. In public finance, immigrants have a positive net impact on the country’s fiscal balance. The OECD also reported that immigrants added more to the per capita net fiscal contribution in 2011. The report revealed that immigrants contributed 17 percent under the average cost scenario and 27 percent under the marginal cost scenario compared to 8 percent contributed by natives under both scenarios.

One could assume that the end of apartheid in 1994 will make African immigrants feel comfortable to do business and live in South Africa considering many African countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe helped in liberating the country. But it is immigrants from these countries that are frequently targeted. Sadly, over 120 people have been killed in these kinds of hate crimes since 1994.

Xenophobia will not only affect social development, but it will also make South Africa more miserable. And only a free society devoid of xenophobia can foster development. South Africans cannot afford to continue to attack foreigners, they must tolerate and accept them.

Tolerance, inclusion and an enabling environment for business are essential traits of developed nations, and South Africa needs to inculcate these traits in its society. It will reduce unemployment and help its economy grow. 

The South African government must be proactive to stop attacks on foreign nationals. Those arrested in connection to the attacks must be prosecuted and brought to justice. Xenophobia will not only affect social development, but it will also make South Africa more miserable. And only a free society devoid of xenophobia can foster development.

Oluwasegun Ajetunmobi is a Writing Fellow at African Liberty and a graduate student of Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He is an Agora Fellow at Young Voices and an Alumnus of the Young African Leaders Initiative, Regional Leadership Centre (Accra). He can be reached on Twitter via @segzyaj.

Photo Credit: Mubarak Show

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