By George Lai Thom

31 August 2015

Violent attacks against foreign nationals, the majority from different parts of Africa, broke out in April this year following statements made by the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini that foreign nationals should return to their countries [1]. Many took refuge in camps erected by the government. This was the worst anti-immigrant violence since 2008, when 62 people were killed and 50,000 displaced from their homes [2]. It is thus evident the problem had not been dealt with adequately in the intervening years.

Khulisa conducted research in the informal settlements in Gauteng (Mangolongolo and Jumpers) and at the officers of NGO Glory for Shrine in Jeppestown. This research was conducted with victims. This research was followed up by interviews with community members in Umlazi and Ga-rankuwa townships in Kwa Zulu Natal[3] All these efforts were conducted to gain an understanding of the causal factors of the violence, and left no doubt that the attacks were due to attitudes of xenophobia.

A meeting was held at the Khulisa offices May 25 attended by Khulisa staff members; founders of NGOs Glory for Shrine (Jeppestown) and Aga Sechaba (Attridgeville); foreign students and Khulisa Managing Director, Leslie Ann van Selm. This meeting determined that further work had to continue in Jeppestown, Attridgeville and Diepkloof in Soweto and a program of action to deal with Xenophobic Violence should develop as a result [4].

The three areas were duly visited by Khulisa RJ and Peacemaking specialist, George Lai Thom and mediators, Nkosinathi Mthembu and Clement Kunene. Dialogue circles were conducted in each area.

These dialogues were well received (Abdulrached to capture data from questionnaires).

In Jeppestown the dialogue was mainly with foreign and local performing artists [5] although a victim shopkeeper and two persons in print media also attended; in Diepkloof with hostel dwellers and representatives of political parties {[6]; and in Attridgeville with the local ward counsellor and ANC Youth Secretary [7]; community members and Somali shopkeepers [8]. The Youth secretariat played a major role in securing a 30 person attendance of local community members and Somali shopkeepers.

These dialogues confirmed desk top research conducted by Lai Thom that the xenophobic violent attacks were due to the following causal factors:

 Intense competition for jobs, commodities and housing;

 Poverty and unemployment;

 Psychological negative stereotyping and scape-goating of foreign nationals;

 South African exceptionalism, or feeling of superiority in relation to other Africans;

 Exclusive citizenship, or a form of nationalism that excludes others.[9]

 Negative attitudes and statements made by political leaders. [10]

 Misperceptions that foreigners “steal” jobs [11]; and engage in unfair business practice. [12]

The research findings from all these initiatives make it evident, then, that any meaningful interventions should take into account the above factors, and a multi-disciplinary approach should be pursued, including:

 Government leaders to implement and change policy, and refrain from making unhelpful


 Religious leaders to administer to the needy;

 Cultural artists to celebrate diversity [13];

 Educators to counteract the effects of negative stereotyping and national chauvinism;

 Media workers to publicise the positive contributions foreign nationals make to the


 Business people to contribute material and financial aid;

 Police service to ensure law and order and administer services evenly;

 Women’s groups to encourage feminists perspective;

 Youth groups to monitor and respond to youth problems;

 Social workers to deal with victims’ social problems [14];

 Funders to ensure funding for projects;

 Local trained mediators, peacemakers and conflict transformation specialist to monitor and

respond to tension in appropriate ways.

Project Elements Recommendation:

 Khulisa pilots one site: Attridgeville;

 Secure sufficient funds to drive a broad peacemaking programme for at least one year;

 Strengthen the capacity of Aga Sechaba in areas of administration;

 Train local stakeholders, including foreign nationals and Aga Sechaba personnel in

mediation, peacemaking and conflict resolution under the coordination of Aga Sechaba;

Through Aga Sechaba:

 Set up meetings with all major stakeholders, and encourage participation;

 Continue dialogue circles with all major stakeholders as identified above, and including

victims, offenders, community members and government;

 Set up Conflict Transformation team to monitor tensions and respond to these;

 Set up community forums and have regular meetings to identify challenges and respond to


 Set up walk-in mediation referral system and with CPF and/or Prosecutors;

 Implement educational programs to teach African history and culture to locals;

 Implement educational programs to teach foreign nationals their rights and SA local cultural

and social practices;

 Implement programs to reduce prejudice;

 Implement initiatives of local entrepreneurship;

 Implement programs such as Silence the Violence and Victim impact panels;

 Implement international and Pan-African cultural events;

 Encourage media to publicise positive contributions made by foreign nationals;

 Set up monitoring and evaluation system.

The above suggested program can also be set up in the Jeppestown area driven by Glory for Shrine.


1. Xenophobia: ‘’Leaders can Stop Attacks’. The Star. Monday, August 24 2015.

2. Somalis burned in SA anti-foreigner violence; Shops abandoned, criminals breaking in and

stealing all they can carry away. Mail and Guardian 11 April 2015.

3. Tackling the Causal Factors of Xenophobia. Abdul Abdulrashed. May 2015

4. Monday meeting. Sibongile Thabo. 25 May 2015

5. Xenophobic Violence Project Report. Jeppestown. G. Lai Thom; C Kunune, 5 June 2015.

6. Xenophobic Violence Project Report. Diepkloof. G. Lai Thom; C. Kunune. 2 June 2015.

7. Xenophobic Violence Project Report Attridgeville. G. Lai Thom; N. Mthembu. 5 June, 2015.

8. Xenohpobic Violence Project Report Attridgeville. G. Lai Thom; N. Mthembu, 29 July 2015.

9. Violence and xenophobia in South Africa: Developing consensus, moving to action”. Human

Science Research Council. Retrieved July 2015.

10. Xenophobia: ‘’Leaders can Stop Attacks’. The Star. Monday, August 24 2015.

11. Analysis: Are foreigners stealing jobs in South Africa? Kate Wilkenson. Africa Check; sorting

out fact from fiction 17 April 2015.

12. Xenophobic Violence Project Report: Attridgeville. G. Lai Thom and N. Mthembu. 29 July


13. Xenophobic Violence Project Report Jeppestown, G. Lai Thom; C.Kunene.

14. Social Work Services to Victims of Xenophobia. M van der Westhuizen; L Kleintjies. Socla

work (Stellenbosch. Online) vol. 51 n.1 Stellenbosch 2015