Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Xenophobia flares up in 2010: "We want what they have"

Being there, one couldn’t help feel that the housing demands were giving way to some kind of primal thirst to destroy. Shops were set alight. A journalist’s car had a window smashed. Streets were blocked with rocks and hawker cages. There were no negotiations and the violence ended slowly, once a stalemate was reached.

Make no mistake, the issues are real and the demands are legitimate. It cannot be that this far down the road people are still living like this. Jacob Zuma said so himself while – on the same day as the protest – he visited the Sweetwaters township and met with its residents.

SHOOT: In May the government reported more service delivery protests in the first three months of 2010 than in any equivalent period since 1994.

On Monday the petrol bombs came out in Olievenhoutbosch, a settlement right in the heart of Gauteng. It was just wanton destruction, but the talk is of targeting foreigners, and soon. If security forces don't start taking that talk seriously, we face a repeat of 2008. Alex Eliseev was there.

“They’re gonna chase the people from other countries out… like Zimbabweans, Nigerians, those who are living here… those who have shops here, they’re gonna break them down and take everything inside, because they belong to them… They say if maybe they start that fighting of xenophobia, killing the foreigners and stuff, the government will listen to them, to what they say.

“Zuma just said they should stop everything and wait until the World Cup is over and then he will help them. But they refuse to listen to the command.”

The equation is strikingly simple: we want what they have. We are willing to kill to get noticed. And we can use the World Cup as leverage.

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