South Africa sends America a message: will we hear it?

We have written on many occasions (start here) about the violence and brutality in that country that was supposed to be the shining light on the African continent.    The Rainbow Nation’s doors were flung open to immigrants of all hues as Apartheid crumbled.  Now South Africa is wracked by what the elites are calling “xenophobic” attacks on foreigners.    I guess they can’t call it racism because both sides are predominantly black.

I was surprised to see today that the Washington Post is reporting on the story.   It seems that camps set up in the wake of riots last spring are being dismantled by the government and refugees are being told its safe to return to their neighborhoods.

Five months have passed since more than 60 people were killed in anti-foreigner beatings and burnings that shocked a nation that touts diversity. Thousands of immigrants moved to about 10 refugee-style camps that seemed incongruous in Africa’s most developed country. In recent weeks, the government has torn most down, saying the neighborhoods are safe again.

But aid workers and immigrants who fled to this spot north of Pretoria — mostly Somalis, Ethiopians and Congolese — disagree. They say the camps’ endurance and continued reports of violence underscore how little the South African government has done to tackle a long-standing hostility toward immigrants that reached a tipping point in the spring.

Even though the camps are being turned into junk heaps, refugees are not budging, the Post says some are holding out hope of third country resettlement.  

The powers that be in South Africa are still trying to figure out how these horrible events could have happened, afterall this is a country that is not supposed to notice difference—diversity is beautiful and multiculturalism rules. 

The attacks prompted soul-searching in a nation whose liberation leaders were given refuge throughout Africa during the apartheid era. Many South Africans criticized the government as failing to help the downtrodden, who view immigrants as competition for jobs. Others saw the violence as a symbol of ousted president Thabo Mbeki’s failed strategy with Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, which they say led to an influx of immigrants from that country.

Some, including Mbeki and ANC leader Jacob Zuma, said the brutality was not xenophobic — as it has been widely labeled — but rather, as Zuma put it, “thuggery and criminality.”

But surveys over the past decade by the Southern African Migration Project have found that hostility toward outsiders is higher in South Africa than in most nations where comparable data exist. In a recent report, the project said warnings by researchers and elected officials about the potential for violence were mostly ignored, leading to a “perfect xenophobic storm” this year.

Here is the lesson Americans should take from South Africa:

1)  There are too many people in Africa with too few resources.

2)  A prosperous country cannot survive open borders. 

3)  Human nature is such that people will fight for what they believe belongs to them and their family (jobs, a home, a neighborhood, a bit of land and so on.)

South Africa will never solve its immigration problems as long as they are stuck on psychoanalyzing xenophobia.    America will never solve its immigration problems as long as the national debate is stuck on characterizing every critic of our immigration policy as a racist. 

A country will only survive when it is strong enough to set limits on immigration that are not only numerical but also take into account the culture and education of those being admitted—we must discriminate! 



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