- Background of the study
Xenophobia is not a new phenomenon in the world. From a global perspective, In 1750 America during the period of rule of Ben Franklin was worried that a large number of foreigners will fill up their country. The foreigners at that time were Germans. The United States of America still is a nation populated with immigrants which infused xenophobia for those immigrants. A great number of Americans still in the 21st Century worry that immigrants like Mexicans are taking their jobs so there is a lot of xenophobic attitudes towards Mexicans by some Americans. An example was Donald Trump the former President of America wanting to ban immigrants and create a wall between America and them claiming that immigrants like Mexicans were drug dealers and rapists while immigrants from countries like Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan were terrorists.
So, xenophobia is not a new phenomenon in the world as we have been dealing with it for centuries, especially in Africa as there has been evidence of xenophobic practices in African countries such as Nigeria on Ghanaians during the year 1983 where Shehu Shagari expelled Ghanaians from Nigeria as he claimed there were only there to exploit the money in the country. However, it is most prevalent in South Africa, which has been known to have the most xenophobic violent attacks on other African states. In the 20th century in 1994, 1995, 1997 South Africa practiced xenophobia on fellow African countries immigrants like the Congolese by denying them access to healthcare facilities. Meanwhile, in Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique immigrants were physically assaulted for weeks in January 1995 by armed gangs who identified them and marched them to
police stations to purify the town of foreigners (Human rights watch 1998). A survey was conducted in 2001 by the South African Migration Project (SAMP) where 21 percentages of South Africans wanted a complete ban on foreigners while 64 percentages wanted strict limitations on the number of people allowed into the country.
According to Hanekam and Webster (2009) history of xenophobic violence is rooted in the legacies of apartheid and the failures of successive governments in accommodating foreigners. In the 21st century, xenophobic violence by South Africa is still a current phenomenon. African immigrants have been targets for xenophobic attacks in South Africa in the 21st century. The first international recognized attack on immigrants happened in May 2008 in Johannesburg, South Africa there was a widespread of violence that targeted foreigners mostly migrants from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi in the country which left 2 people dead and 40 injured and the attacks later expanded to other towns and by the end of May over 60 people were dead and thousands injured, this action sparked many global reactions and made many international headlines. In April 2015 another form of xenophobic violence broke out which lead to the Nigerian ambassador in South Africa being recalled back to his country. In the month of June and July 2019, a Nigerian woman miss Elizabeth Ndubisi-Chukwu was killed in South Africa in her hotel room where she was strangled to death and on the 25th of July, a 33-year-old Tayo Faniran was assaulted by South African policemen because he denied them access to his phone this action gained a lot of recognition especially in Nigeria which left a lot of Nigerians worried, disappointed and angry as they took to social media to explain their frustrations.
In a conference on African development in Tokyo on August 28th, 2019, President Buhari met with President Cyril Ramaphosa and discussed the death of Nigerians in South Africa and as a result, President Cyril Ramaphosa issued a letter of apology for the attacks on Nigerians in South
Africa to President Buhari through a special envoy. Erika Lee (2019) mentioned that one thing about xenophobia is that it’s shape-shifting just like racism and when you think it is gone it comes back and sometimes it comes back worse than the previous. This was evident in this situation as not long after the discussion which was made by both President Buhari and Cyril in August another xenophobic attack on Nigerians occurred in September 2019 where Nigerian immigrant businesses were being looted and burnt by South Africans.
This action sparked anger from the Nigerian Government where they claimed “Enough was enough and that they will take defensive measures to ensure their citizens are safe and protected”(Government of Nigeria, 2019). South Africa and Nigeria are one of the most globally recognized countries in Africa. They both share a very significant and hearty relationship. Nigeria played a vital role in eliminating the apartheid regime of South Africa and it also contributed largely to the restoration of black majority rule in South Africa.
Xenophobia in South Africa has had negative impacts on the country’s relationship with Nigeria and other African countries as they’ve had to receive their citizens back dead or terribly injured from xenophobic attacks on them in South Africa (Ogunnoiki&Adeyemi, 2019). It has also had various consequences for South Africa and has created a form of hostility on South Africans by Nigerians and other African countries which have experienced xenophobic violence by South Africans on their Citizens.
Xenophobic attacks occurred for years in South Africa from the 20th century to the 21st century and still hasn’t been properly addressed. For example, President Buhari’s discussion with President
Cyril on the Xenophobic attacks on Nigerians by South Africans was not a planned meeting they just happened to meet in Tokyo where they discussed and the discussion wasn’t enough because a month after their discussion there was another xenophobic attack on Nigerians in South Africa.
South Africa has had a past society dominated by a white majority and was one of the nations in Africa that gained its independence late and was finally free from white majority rule and apartheid in April 1994. This could also be a problem as its history of white majority rule has created some form of mistrust and resentment for other African countries by South Africans which may have been the aim of the whites before they left. An example was the burning of Nigeria-owned businesses in South Africa where they claimed that the Nigerians were stealing their jobs which is ironic considering the fact that there are many South African-owned enterprises and businesses in Nigeria such as MTN Services, Shoprite, and Dstv, etc.
The world is expanding, and countries are dependent on each other for their survival. Therefore, its important for South Africa to maintain ties with strong African nations like Nigeria as it can prove very advantageous to them instead as these current actions of theirs could discourage and break up ties with Nigeria and create a form of hostility on South Africans by Nigerians which is not needed especially now that the world is divided and there are many issues currently going on with the world like the global pandemic of Covid 19 which started in 2019 and doesn’t seem to go anywhere any time soon, as a result, nations need to come together and be united in order to tackle this problem the world is facing right now which will not be possible if they are divided.