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Xenophobia in South Africa

Xenophobia is the fear of foreigners, and in South Africa it has led to stereotyping people from the rest of Africa as criminals or competition in the job market. Some say the rising tide of xenophobia and the resulting violence against foreigners may hurt the South African economy and its ability to attract much needed skills. Smuts Ngonyama is a spokesman for the ruling African National Congress and the president’s office. He told VOA English to Africa Service reporter James Butty there is no evidence of xenophobia affecting the South African economy.

“As far as I’m concerned, there is absolutely no impact on the economy because the South African economy is being a very strong economy in the continent on its own, with or without people coming from other parts of the world….”

Smuts says while there may be some violence and resentment against foreign shop owners in South Africa, he does not think xenophobia is the only reason.

“When you talk about shops, we must distinguish between illegally run shops that sell drugs and various other stuffs that are viewed by the society and the community as totally unpalatable and not necessarily adding value to the morality and the pan-African cohesion of the society here. You will definitely find the situation where there is stiff competition among hawkers, in particular where there is jockeying for certain strategic points in the streets, and people, I’ve traded in this street for years, now you come and say that I don’t belong here. Who are you to tell me that? So you have such incidences, but I don’t believe that it’s a major, major economic conflict based on xenophobia.”

Smuts says it is ridiculous [to say,] as suggested by some, that the ANC government may be using the issue of xenophobia as a scapegoat to divert attention from what some say is the government’s failure to deliver services.

“I’m not sure what they mean by that because you expect foreigners to execute responsibilities. In fact they are benefiting from the resources and services that we are giving out to the people. For that matter, it is this ANC government which got number one in the whole world for the provision of houses because of the number of houses that we have provided free of charge.”

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