ISS governance, crime and justice division head Gareth Newham said the recent attacks on foreign nationals in the country were fuelled by two myths about foreigners.
“The first is that they take South Africans’ jobs, which drives up unemployment. The second is that they are a cause of the crime problem,” said Newham.
“And while some foreign nationals engage in crime, most do not. South Africans perpetrate a vast majority of crime in the country. This is acknowledged in Statistics South Africa’s National Victims of Crime Survey released in 2014, which shows that 95% of the 30 000 households surveyed said crime in their area was committed by South Africans. Only 5% said that crime in their area was caused by foreigners.”
Foreigners that run businesses employ more South Africans than South African-run businesses do, according to a study by the Migrating for Work Research Consortium.
“Immigration is a sensitive subject globally,” said ISS researcher Hamadziripi Tamukamoyo.
“The recent backlash against immigrants in European Union countries by conservative political parties clearly demonstrates this. Attitudes in South Africa toward foreign nationals therefore seem to mirror conservative concerns in other parts of the world,” said Tamukamoyo.
“Foreign nationals must be seen as a valuable resource and integrated into economic growth plans rather than being excluded from them. This will also require a review of immigration policy and practice.”
The People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), the prime liberation movement in Swaziland, condemned the continuous xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
“We have confidence that the South African government and the people of South Africa as a whole will come out victorious in this battle against xenophobia,” said the movement.
“Dialogue and peaceful engagement is the only solution known to our African people, as demonstrated when the South African society spoke to itself and reconciled after decades of political oppression.”