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NID Public Discussion: Xenophobia

The past months have seen a dramatic increase in the level of violence in South Africa against foreign nationals. This prompted the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the Namibia Institute of Democracy to hold a public forum discussion at Katutura Community Arts Center.

The central objective of the discussion was to examine the underlying causes of xenophobia, the consequences on the Africans and in the process cultivate recommendations that could be useful in addressing violence in South Africa. If the culture of violence against foreign nationals is left unattended the spillover effects could be felt across the SADC region and even beyond. 

The facilitator Panduleni from NID opened the discussion by posing the following questions : What is xenophobia? What do we make of pan Africanism that Kwame Nkurumah , Julius Nyerere among others stood for in face of the xenophobic developments in South Africa? 

That there exist renewed acts of gruesome attacks against foreign nationals can no longer be ruled off from the South African news. Thus, one of the guest speaker Ms Emma Teofelus took time to give a historical narrative of the history of violence in South Africa dating back to apartheid system. Ms Emma Toefelus and Mr Richard Meganemo Namwandi shared a common understanding of the term xenophobia. The duo defined xenophobia as fear and hatred of a stranger or guest that finds an outlet through violence, exploitation as well as discrimination. Several factors emerged from the discussion that help explain what conditions Xenophobia. 

The issue of survival was flagged out in the discussion. One of the voices in the discussion reasoned that the acts of violence being committed are not an end in themselves but a reflection of the socio-economic challenges facing most South African citizens. This seemed to be generally agreed among the participants. The Chief Justice opinioned during his speech at KwaZulu Natal 2019 graduation ceremony that hunger and not xenophobia is the cause of violence in South Africa.

The second factor is rampant unemployment among South Africans. The need to make ends meet have prompted some South Africans to embark on looting of shops of Nigerians and Somalis among other nationals. This is not to deny that some foreign nationals also engage in looting of shops as noted by one participant.

 Consequences of violence in South Africa

The violence in South Africa targeted at foreign nationals goes contrary to the values of Pan Africanism propagated by the likes of Kwame Nkurumah. Discussants highlighted that the xenophobia attacks affect the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, leads to diplomatic stand off and revenge as has been witnessed with the destruction of Shoprite in Nigeria. Themost dreadful consequence has been the death of various foreign nationals. These include Malawians and Zimbabweans.

It is important to go in the direction of public discussion in order to solicit recommendations. 


The discussion offered critical recommendations that could be useful in addressing Xenophobia. These are inclusive of civic education among young and old. Mandela is famously known to have echoed that, if people can be taught to hate they can be taught to love. Civic society and International organisations could be useful in assisting through conducting civic education to denounce xenophobia. The government of South Africa has tasked special envoys across Africa to apologise for the Xenophobia attacks. Such acts are commendable and there is need to do more , the South African government should ensure that perpetrators of xenophobia should face the full wrath of law .

Most importantly, some foreign nationals in South Africa are victims of mis governance from their countries of origin. SADC and AU should help find ways to address economic , political and social tubulations faced in various African countries in order to minimise forced migration.

The group discussion shared similar views widely held that the authorities in South Africa had done little to curb attitudes and practises against foreign nationals. Consequently, His Excellency, Cyril Ramaphosa was jeered in Zimbabwe on the state funeral for Robert Mugabe. This sounded as a wake-up call to address Xenophobia