Sun. Apr 14th, 2024
By Antony Sguazzin

Xenophobia appears to win votes in South Africa. That’s the lesson the ruling African National Congress seems to have taken from its poor performance in November’s local elections.

The ANC lost a chunk of support in Johannesburg and Pretoria to groups stoking anti-foreigner sentiment, and is concerned about the 2024 national ballot. Analysts predict the party of Nelson Mandela will win less than half the vote for the first time since all-race elections began in 1994.

The Cabinet’s first move was to initiate plans to send almost 200,000 Zimbabweans home after allowing them to live and work in South Africa since 2009. Then this week Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said there are plans to introduce employment quotas for foreign nationals.

An Angolan immigrant in Cape Town, South Africa. Photographer: PIETER BAUERMEISTER

The ANC and its rivals are tapping a rich vein of sentiment which at times has turned violent. The country’s 3 million migrants are scapegoated for taking jobs in a country with record unemployment and putting a strain on local governments failing to deliver basic services. Recent weeks have seen a drumbeat of hatred on social media.

A trash picker wheels a trolley along the street in the Alexandra township of Johannesburg. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

But politicians should exercise caution. At least 62 people were killed in anti-migrant riots in 2008, forcing the army to be deployed in townships for the first time since the end of apartheid. Television footage of a Mozambican man being burned alive traversed the globe.

Violence has erupted sporadically since and in 2019 President Cyril Ramaphosa sent envoys around Africa to calm his angry peers. Igniting a tinderbox is a dangerous way to try and win an election.

Credit | Bloomberg

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