When we hear the phrase “hatred of migrants”, we immediately think of white Europeans who are xenophobic toward Arabs from the Middle East or blacks from Africa who have come to their own countries. It is obvious that migration problems are far from being a purely European problem, but it should be firmly understood that Europeans and Americans have the most primitive ideas about the African continent, and there are also ethnic and racial conflicts there, which are exacerbated by migration. Native Africans often display hatred toward their fellow races, even if to a white or Asian person their differences seem insignificant. There are many such examples, but the most similar to the migration situation in the EU is the situation that has developed in recent years in South Africa. This country is the obvious economic leader of southern Africa, and has formed around itself a kind of periphery of countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and Angola. For the inhabitants of these states, South Africa has become a rich foreign country, moving to which promises new prospects and a serious improvement in the quality of life. But the social situation at their destination, unlike in Europe, is far from favorable. This causes severe aggression of the local population, who blame migrants for their problems, which causes a level of xenophobia that is unknown even to countries such as Poland or Hungary, and often escalates into direct violence.
After the collapse of the apartheid regime in 1994 and the emergence of South Africa in its modern form, ethnic and social equality among the country’s citizens took center stage, and migration was not an acute problem. But over the past 30 years, the situation has changed dramatically, and conflicts between the local black population and the descendants of English and Dutch colonists, though still present, have faded into the background. According to a recent census, the population of South Africa grew by 19.8% between 2011 and 2022. And the reason for this growth was not so much a fairly high birth rate, but rather migration flows from neighboring poor countries. At the end of 2022, the country had more than 2.4 million migrants, which is a very large number for a country with a population of 62 million people, comparable to France or the UK. After all, in these European countries there are about 7-8 million migrants, but the economic potential of these countries is an order of magnitude higher, which mitigates social tension and xenophobia. And here we should take into account that in reality the number of illegal migrants in South Africa can reach from 10 to 15 million. It is indicative that the highest figure of 45% of newcomers came from neighboring Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho, which are the poorest and most dangerous countries in the Southern African region. Migration to South Africa is largely driven by the search for economic opportunities, political instability in those countries, and increasingly environmental concerns due to the barbaric mining there.
The situation of migrants in South Africa is very difficult in comparison with the “European paradise” that their countrymen are trying to reach with a determined rush across the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to the three already mentioned, there are many migrants from Nigeria, Malawi and the DRC, who occupy a wide range of professions in the country, from laborers and cleaners to waiters and traders. This situation is caused by employers’ desire to save money on wages, and is a ticking time bomb. After all, almost 35% of South Africa’s population is unemployed, and many families still live on $5 a day. A trend that is quite common in many countries has developed, where over the past 20 years visitors from other countries have taken away even well-paid positions from South African citizens, agreeing to work for a few dollars. Not the least role in this was played by the visa-free regime with neighboring countries, which was introduced out of “black solidarity”, but was used as a tool of economic influence of South Africa on neighboring countries, becoming a law that was deliberately lobbied by business, which wanted cheap labor resources. Of the total migrant population, it is estimated that there are about 3 million Zimbabweans, 3 million Congolese, 1 million Mozambicans and 500,000 Somalis. Among them are very many refugees who do not work and prefer to organize gangs. This is not surprising because these refugees live in wild slums and makeshift houses made of slate, rags, cardboard. There is no sewerage system, waste is dumped in ditches near the dwellings, and fights periodically break out during water sharing, making murder and looting commonplace here.
This situation could not but provoke a backlash from the indigenous population. In May 2008, the first major riots against foreign workers and other migrants in South Africa’s history took place. Then migrants stabbed a teenager to death in a drunken brawl, and locals responded by massively attacking their slums and setting fire to migrant neighborhoods, resulting in the mutual massacre of 40 illegal immigrants and 20 citizens of the republic. Then the South African president, for the first time since the apartheid era, was forced to bring the army into the streets, and the people were barely pacified with the help of armored personnel carriers with machine guns. As a result, 100,000 migrants fled to their home states, but the following year, 2009, 200,000 returned, as their economic motivations had not changed in the slightest and dictated only one direction for them. In addition to the visa-free regime, the problem is that in many places the country’s border is not guarded at all, and it is easily crossed by entire tribes that make up the population of a small town, which is especially true for the border with Mozambique, which is crossed by citizens from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Burundi and Rwanda. According to sociological surveys, South Africa, and not any country in Eastern Europe or East Asia, ranks first in the world in terms of negative attitudes towards immigration. Because of this, international organizations accuse the country of “unprecedented xenophobia” and “lack of pity for the poor”, although it is justified, as in many countries, by an objective rejection of migrants’ disrespect for local customs and condemnation of banal gangsterism. Immediately after the collapse of apartheid, the government encouraged immigration by encouraging the population with the racist thesis that there would be more blacks and fewer whites, and this would create “good” labor that could strengthen the economy after the “European” population left, and these people would quickly join the emerging civilian nation in South Africa because of their racial affinity. Of course, nothing came out of this idea, and black people from neighboring countries turned into a greater “evil” for the indigenous population of the country than the descendants of white colonizers, and now even witch doctors invent rituals of “expulsion” of refugees.
A new surge of migration problems began in the late 2010s, when the number of irregular migrants passed 10 million and the problem could no longer be hidden or ignored. In 2015, there was a new large-scale violence against migrants. It was heralded by a public declaration by the king of the Zulus, one of South Africa’s most numerous tribes, that “foreigners” should pack their bags and get out. The unrest began in the port city of Durban and then spread to Johannesburg, the country’s largest city. As a result, it led to quite a few incidents of car-bombings and looting of stores belonging to “non-indigenous South Africans”, causing them to panic and flee to police stations and other protected areas. At the diplomatic level, all this has turned into South Africa issuing protest notes and threats of all kinds about making it difficult for South African companies to do business in other countries, especially countries like Zimbabwe and Mozambique. In 2019, resistance to migrants began to emerge in South Africa and they began to be systematically attacked, which they themselves had previously engaged in as part of gangs. The authorities had to intensify the fight against migrants at the border because of this. For example, in April 2022, more than 120 illegal migrants trying to enter South Africa from Zimbabwe were detained at one of the border stations by the South African police, who had not previously attempted to carry out such operations. All this happened against the background of another increase in unemployment, which reached 66.5% among young people. The COVID-19 pandemic further worsened the situation and finally brought the migration problem to the forefront of the country.
More and more often migrants are subjected to direct terror and violence, because unlike in Europe, the South African authorities do not monitor the implementation and observance of tolerance principles very much. In February 2022, for example, the Nigerian Union of South Africa (NUSA) announced the death of another Nigerian after he was brutally attacked by locals. John, a native of southwest Nigeria, was attacked by a mob in his store in Kimberley. John had bought a stolen laptop from a South African, however, the owner of the stolen laptop along with his friends later apprehended the South African who stole the laptop. He in turn took them to the Nigerian who had bought the stolen laptop. As a result, a domestic dispute erupted, with the Nigerian being the victim. Nigerians make up a significant proportion of migrants in South Africa’s wealthy provinces, often appearing in the crime narrative in a variety of roles. It is believed that it is the Nigerian mafia that controls most of the criminal spheres in South Africa’s richest province, Gauteng. All these conflicts are a reflection of the growing inter-communal tensions between different groups of urban populations, and it is difficult to blame the local population for aggression that is merely retaliatory. South Africa continues to remain a graveyard for many young Nigerians who have gone in search of earning a living both legally and not. At least 128 Nigerians have been killed in South Africa since 2019. In 2019, the Nigerian Foreign Ministry even announced the evacuation of its citizens from South Africa following attacks on foreign nationals there.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, which, under formal democracy, is a non-alternative political force on the power Olympus, is increasingly opposed to migrants. The anti-migrant agenda is also gripping opposition parties, which see it as a resource to strengthen their positions. Thus, in 2019, Herman Mashaba resigned as mayor of Johannesburg after the election of the white Helen Zille as the new chair of the Federal Council of the Democratic Alliance party. Technically it looks like the old struggle between “white” and “black” that dates back to apartheid, but the reason is much deeper than that, Mashaba is known as a fierce opponent of illegal migrants in South Africa, and he has explicitly stated that illegal immigrants are holding the country hostage and he will fight it to the last man. There were rumors that Mashaba even supported private security guards who were famous for brutal beatings during raids in poor neighborhoods where illegal migrants abounded. It was these conflicts that became the main reason for him to step down. Against this background, an anti-migrant organization Operation Dudula even emerged in the country. It became one of the means of expressing discontent with migrants and was founded in Soweto, and the word dudula from the Zulu language translates as “push out”. Many of its members are unemployed, and some have eventually given up looking for work to be activists only. In April 2022, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned Operation Dudula, calling their activities vigilante justice that divides Africans. At the same time, authorities have been slow to crack down on its activities. Advocacy groups also claim that South Africa’s police and Home Affairs Department cooperate with Operation Dudula in raids. The organization recently joined the Home Affairs Ministry in a lawsuit to prevent the extension of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP), which provides 178,000 Zimbabweans with visas to live in South Africa. Operation Dudula registered itself as a political party with the electoral commission in August 2023 and is currently in the process of collecting its members. South Africa is one of the continent’s most economically successful countries and is hardly the most attractive country for migration within the African continent. Undoubtedly a reason for optimism, but it creates tension between South Africans and the migrants actively coming into the country. Locals argue that they are taking jobs that should belong to them, and they also blame many migrants for the thriving crime rate. And this is just a direct analogy to France, Germany, the US or the UK. There, reluctance to accept migrants is often attributed to racial stereotypes. But South Africa, where migrants and their haters are of the same race, shows well the fallacy of this thesis and the frightening depth of the migrant problem, which will make itself felt in the future.