Two weeks of violence and hatred have ripped apart the image of South Africa as a nation which seeks to assume the leadership of Africa. The fury that was unleashed against foreign workers in the country has never previously been witnessed and in the wake of what happened thousands of innocent people are left without a home, without clothes, without a job and without food. Estimates are that up to a 100,000 have been displaced and dozens killed as mobs rampaged through towns killing, beating and burning. At least 50,000 Zimbabweans and Moczambicans have left the country in fear of their lives. There are about five million immigrants in South Africa of whom at least half are from Zimbabwe where President Mugabe has destroyed the economy and viciously attacked opponents.
Reporters have found hundreds of people camped out near police stations huddling under blankets as winter begins. “We are living like dogs,” said a Sudanese refugee, “please tell somebody to help us.” Most aid to refugees is coming from church groups, relief agencies and individuals. Despite making speeches about how terrible everything was, government leaders are not initiating any large-scale relief efforts. The Red Cross has complained about the lack of national coordination to deal with the impact of the riots.
Perhaps, if President Mbeki would exert pressure on his close friend, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, a fair election in that nation would bring to power a government that would restore the wrecked economy and most probably result in millions of Zimbabweans in South Africa returning home.