Dispelling myths about xenophobia in South Africa 

A lot of what people are using as bases to justify xenophobia isn’t rooted in fact or evidence. Anecdotes are killing people.Let’s dispel some myths, shall we.

1. “Foreigners are being given opportunities that belong to black South Africans because BEE allows it

No. Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment is governed through Act 53 of 2003 (read with Act 46 of 2013)

In terms of the law – for the purposes of BBBEE, only black people that are South African are defined. (See pic)

Black people WHO ARE NOT SOUTH AFRICAN are not counted in scoring for BBBEE compliance.

2. “Foreigners are stealing all the jobs


Only 4% of those between 15 & 64 years in SA are foreign nationals. 80% of the working population are ‘non-migrants’ (South Africans); 16% are ‘internal migrants’ from other parts of the country (Source: MiWORC).

However, unemployment among international migrants in SA is slightly less than that among South Africans. There are various contributory factors, including level of education, language proficiency and the fact that some must have secured a job prior to arrival.

3. “Foreigners dominate informal sector


Only 18% of informal sector business owners in Gauteng (economic hub) are foreign. 28% of informal sector business owners are from elsewhere in SA. 54% were born in Gauteng.

(Source: Gauteng City-Region Observatory – GCRO)

4. What about crime?

The Victims of Crime Survey (read with the SA Crime Stats) reveals that most people believe &/or know perpetrators to be local.

BUT in Limpopo, the North West & Gauteng, perceptions are that people who are not South African are most responsible for crime… though the data on reported cases, arrests and trials show the majority of perpetrators in those provinces are still South African.

                      ____________| |___________

Inequality & unemployment seem to be the major drivers of xenophobic violence. Primary targets are the employed, not the employers.

Having said all that, what’s needed then?

Xenophobia can really only be successfully addressed indirectly. Why? Because changing deep-rooted views/perceptions requires more than a paradigm shift. Mindsets don’t change easily… 

Fix the issues that agitate people. (& it’s not *really the foreigners…) Address economic concerns & marginalisation. Build, don’t break.

Note: If you live in an urban area, you are more likely to think there are waaay more non-South African Africans in the country than there are. Here’s why: Most economic migrants will move to the economic hubs (mostly urban or peri-urban) for the opportunities they are seeking. The exceptions are those in non-urban agricultural nodes in (for example) Limpopo, Mpumalanga & the Western Cape… (Bearing in mind that an estimated 35.2% of the population in South Africa live entirely in rural areas.)

Government (local, provincial & national) would do better to address WHY so many black South Africans are unemployed… than passing the buck.

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