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Xenophobia ‘excluded from dialogue on racism’

Resource type: News

Mail & Guardian Online |

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University of the Witwatersrand is an Atlantic grantee.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA — Racism against black foreigners from African countries is often excluded from discourse about racism in South Africa, the First Apartheid Archive Conference heard on Thursday.

“… in the studies of racism in South Africa what is often given lip service and sometimes completely left out is the racism that the black foreigners from African countries who migrated and continue to move into South Africa experience and continue to experience.

“Most of the black foreigners pejoratively described as [i]makwerekwere[/i], have made South Africa their home and yet they continue to experience racism,” professor Abebe Zageye told the conference in Johannesburg.

Zageye said racism against foreigners in South Africa was articulated in complex ways, for example, foreigners working on farms were paid less.

However, the most visible expression of racism of this sort was the xenophobic attacks of 2008.

Zageye presented a paper to the conference in which he argued that xenophobia was “an expression of embedded South African racism in the past and the present” which did not affect white people.

This was the reason it was necessary to archive xenophobia as racism.

The conference — hosted by the school of human and community development and the faculty of humanities at the University of the Witwatersrand — formed part of the apartheid archive project.

Under the theme “facing the apartheid archives”, the conference was the first step toward “remembering the past and interrogating its continued effects on current South African society”.

Zageye said he believed the xenophobic attacks last year were not spontaneous but were rather “systematic and well organised”.

However, at the end of his talk he said South Africa was making strides in eradicating xenophobia, adding that for the first time a Zambian-born person was now a member of the South African Parliament. — Sapa