In Summary
  • The richest 10 per cent of the South African population held around 71 per cent of net wealth in 2015, while the bottom 60 per cent held just seven per cent.
  • The number of foreigners in South Africa has been on a steady increase from 958,188 in 1996, 1.03 million in 2001 to 2.2 million in 2011.

JOHANNESBURG

It started with a scary WhatsApp message. “Somalis are kidnapping children in schools,” the message said.

Worried parents rushed to schools to save their children from what was thought to be ongoing retaliatory attacks by foreigners, The Star, a South African newspaper, reported.

But this was not true. There were no retaliatory attacks and there were no Somalis kidnapping children.

At the end of it all, four students in a primary school in Thokoza, Ekurhuleni, in Gauteng, South Africa, were nursing injuries after a stampede at their school.

This was the most recent episode of anxiety and anti-foreigner sentiments in South Africa, in the same week that seven people were confirmed dead in xenophobic attacks that are now slowly mutating into wanton looting of shops, including a car dealership outlet owned by a Nigerian that was burnt with 50 cars inside, according to media reports.

More than 189 people have been arrested, after which most of Johannesburg remains calm.

However, shops in affected areas are still closed for fear of repeat attacks.

LOOTING

Between 1994 and 2018, there were 529 xenophobic attacks in South Africa, resulting in 309 deaths, according to Xenowatch, a xenophobia monitoring tool developed by the University of Witwatersrand.

“These recent attacks seem to be well-organised, and not sporadic. The ones we are facing now are different from the ones in the townships, which we could attribute to high crime and high unemployment rates.

"These ones are well-organised, moving in minibuses, saying they are following the calls of some leaders that we (foreigners) are not law-abiding citizens,” Amir Sheikh of the African Diaspora Forum told journalists at Jeppestown.

South African police minister Bheki Cele visited Jeppestown following the looting of foreign-owned shops and killing of five foreigners.

Speaking in isiZulu, the minister called for peace, promising another meeting with the locals today.

But for the angry Jeppestown residents, that promise just wasn’t good enough.

In fact, it fuelled even more violence just after the minister left, with media reports saying sporadic looting went on into the night.

INEQUALITY

The statement – about the lack of jobs and its connection to foreigners – has been the common thread in the latest attacks that also rocked Rosettenville, Germiston, Tembisa, Turffontein, Boksburg, Malvern, Marabastad and Alexandria in Johannesburg.

South Africa, the Rainbow nation that became a democracy in 1994 after the fall of an oppressive apartheid regime, is ranked as the most unequal nation on earth, according to data from the World Bank.

More than half or in absolute numbers, 30.3 million, people live in poverty, earning less than 992 Rands, or Sh6,950 in the current exchange rate, while a quarter of the population (13.8 million people) are experiencing food poverty.

In terms of races, the situation is even worse. While a white person in South Africa earns an average 12,214 Rands (Sh85,970) per month, a black person goes home with three times less, an average of 4,413 Rands (Sh31,061).

An Asian or Indian, according to the National Income Dynamics Study from 2008 to 2015, earns an average 11,900 Rands (Sh83,760) and 4,834 Rands (Sh34,025), respectively.

UNEMPLOYMENT

Page 1 of 2