This article was first published on The Citizen on 21 September 2022
Xenophobia is a slippery slope
South Africa is a beautiful country that contains a tremendous rot. Xenophobia is a social disease that holds back South Africans from truly uplifting themselves. It denies self-awareness, encourages hatred, and continues this country’s trend of hatred of innocents.
SA is inevitably going to be a destination for immigration. We are the most developed nation in Southern Africa. The only industrialised nation, in fact. And despite terrible policies and governance, we have the most economic opportunities for any enterprising or hard-working person.
For an economic migrant or refugee facing destitution in their home country, it makes sense to flock to SA. Once here, foreigners often work incredibly hard to build businesses, provide valuable skills and contribute tremendously to the SA economy. In return, they are hated by locals.
Foreigners have been blocked from entering public hospitals, despite most likely paying more in tax than many locals. Local unions have demanded xenophobic policies to block foreigners from participating in entire industries – notably trucking. Recently, xenophobic parties and organisations are enraged that Zimbabwean exemption permit have been extended – allowing nationals of a neighbour that SA helped destroy to work in this country. ActionSA, one of SA’s growing political parties, has been thriving on the populist trend of hating fellow human beings.
But why is there all this hatred for foreigners in this country?
Is it economic? Many xenophobes cite that foreigners are stealing their jobs and denying them work. But, more often than not, immigrants create more jobs than they take up. And even if they were filling local jobs that could be performed by locals, so what? The reason they got the job is because the employer wanted to hire them. What should matter here is the preference of the employer. Not the demands of economic nationalists.
But the data shows that immigration has a negligible effect on employment in South Africa. Overall, immigrants tend to create more jobs for South Africans as they often start businesses that produce wealth, provide much needed goods and services, and employ local workers.
Immigrants have proven to be valuable members of the economy, providing an enterprising spirit and much needed skills to our economy. Prussia, the country that became the German Empire, encouraged huge amounts of immigration when it was a fledgeling state – recognising the importance of an active and productive population, no matter of origin.
South Africa benefits economically from immigration.
So, what about crime?
Yes, there are foreign criminals in South Africa. That is inevitable. But the majority of criminals in this country are local South Africans. There is no inherent criminal element in foreign immigrants. Foreigners don’t cause crime to rise. Rather, it is local South Africans robbing and murdering their fellow South Africans.
Some xenophobes are angry that immigrants are on welfare. But the majority of welfare recipients are South Africans. The reason immigrants tend to be so hard working is that they don’t have the ability to get on welfare. If they do, that’s a problem with corruption in our government. If the problem is welfare, then more immigration is actually a solution. They can’t rely on welfare. They have to work.
A lack of space at public hospitals, lack of infrastructure and deteriorating public spaces is further reason for xenophobia. But denying access to public infrastructure to foreigners is arbitrary in the extreme. The only justifiable method of determining if someone deserves to use public infrastructure is if they pay tax. Most South Africans don’t pay tax. They pay VAT, sure. But so do foreigners. And many foreigners do pay tax on top of VAT.
Foreigners have every bit of right to use public infrastructure than locals. It’s public! That implies usage by everyone. Not just people who were accidentally born in this country.
As we have seen, the reasoning behind xenophobia is flimsy and not based in reality. The real reason for xenophobia is much simpler, however. It is purely jealousy and hatred.
Foreigners are often hard working, skilled and enterprising. So, they get rich. And this creates jealousy that turns into hatred and violence. Foreign-owned shops are looted by the hateful and the jealous. Hard work is ignored, and neighbours are deemed as aliens.
And this all culminates into the primal reasoning behind xenophobia. Simple and utter hatred of the other. And this hatred is a slippery slope.
Because xenophobes don’t just hate foreigners. They have a hatred that stems from far more than just the flimsy reasoning seen above. They hate everything they deem alien. And not just immigrants.
When foreigners are successfully expelled, will the xenophobes be sated? Not likely. Already, Indian people who have lived here for generations are deemed as aliens and were attacked in the mass riots of last year. White people are considered perpetual settlers and deemed unwelcome despite many families being here for centuries.
And if Indian and white people, already alienated, are expelled, it doesn’t stop there. The different ethnicities of South Africa have a history of fighting one another. And without foreigners, Indians and whites to despise, there will soon be a new Mfecane with resentment and conflict between local cultural groups.
Hatred begets hatred. It can’t be cured by appeasing it. It can only be cured through ending the hatred. When we hate groups and collective, we go down an inevitable path to ruin. It has to end. Xenophobia is destroying this country. It is only a precursor for even more hatred. It has to end.