The recent xenophobic violence which swept through South Africa resulting in the death of dozens of people and the destruction of homes and businesses of immigrants is causing South Africans to wonder if their nation has been too complacent about serious structural and economic issues. A special task force probing the violence concludes there was no one cause, but the outbreak resulted from a variety of causes ranging from failure of the government to confront poverty to the presence of millions of immigrants in a nation with a high unemployment rate.The report noted ‘in some cases, there is some evidence of copy-cat activities in which criminals took advantage of the news story to conduct criminal acts” but the violence can not be simply classified as an example of criminals running wild.
The South African government now understands it must protect all those living in the country from violence on the part of those seeking to achieve goals by using the presence of immigrants to vent frustrations. The message to security forces is “no violence will be tolerated.” A major problem when violence initially began was failure on the part of police and army to take immediate strong action to nip the attacks in the bud before they could gain momentum.
Some immigrants may leave South Africa and return home but thousands are unable to go back as is the case of those from Zimbabwe where that nation is in chaos due to the incompetent and brutal actions of President Mugabe. Thousands of immigrants have married native South Africans and have families that can not be abandoned. At present, an important need is for the government to finally show some initiative and provide food, clothing and shelter to those impacted by violence.