Contrary to the US immigration debacle, South Africa’s legislative body welcomes its immigrant population with civil rights and social services. With firm legislation in place, social and economic troubles rise to the surface. The buzzword or media go to is ‘xenophobia.’ This article cuts across most political speech and straight to the history and culture of the native vs immigrant argument in South Africa.
On a longer view, in the two decades since the end of apartheid, South Africa has absorbed, largely peacefully, migrants comprising more than 10% of its 50m population. In such a situation many other societies would have developed outright xenophobia. The liberal climate in the multi-ethnic townships and informal settlements contributed to the integration of migrants.
So why is this positive model collapsing? Observers believe disappointment at the slow progress in public wellbeing, given the overly-high expectations raised post-apartheid, has led to frustration and anger now directed against foreigners—instead of questioning the performance and quality of South Africa’s own leaders.