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{December 14, 2009}   Results, Discussion and Conclusion

The results

In terms of the two respondents that I interviewed were male, their age difference (23 & 35) and environment played a major role in the way xenophobia was encountered and expressed?  Respondent A was from Mpumalanga which is located in north-east South Africa bordering Swaziland and Mozambique. His definition of xenophobia was ‘the fear of people from other countries in your country that results to racism.’ Though he never experienced xenophobia he knew of a Nigerian male who was assaulted by his neighbors claiming that he sold drugs to their school children. Yet he was a hard working, shop keeper and devoted Christian.

 Currently the xenophobia attacks in south Africa have subsided but in the beginning of May 2008. There was an outbreak of “Xenophobic attacks”. Xenophobic attack is a term that refers to any kind of attack, physical or emotional. A couple of months ago people from Johannesburg started these attacks and they spread through the country’s five of nine provinces. These provinces in no particular order were Gauteng, North West, Limpopo, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga. The common theme about these five provinces is that, they have resort areas attracting both local and international persons during the summer.

The economy was affected when the communal settlers  recognized businesses to be owned by people that were not of South African nationality.  Most of these “foreigners” business men and women who had managed to assimilate into the communities were being extoted.Hence, most of their property was either  stolen or burnt down. After the foreigners were evicted from their homes, the S.A government opened “refuge” camps in order to provide them with food, water and other necessities. The funds to provide basic necessities came from the government and donations from large companies for example, MTN( communication company). In a way these companies were giving back to the community.

Ever since respondent A, came for the fall semester he hasn’t kept up with the attacks especially the effects of xenophobia to their economy. Even though he believes that there is a relation between the economic effects of xenophobia and his academic status. His belief is that, if the economy goes down then prices go up. And as a student it becomes difficult to maintain the amount of resources needed for each course taken each term because the government would decrease its budget on education, implying that study funds are lowered while universities increase their fees. Therefore their own personal funds wouldn’t be able to sustain them.

The change brought about by the economic situation due to xenophobia is his fear of what goes around comes around. As he has observed the difficulties in traveling to South Africa’s neighboring countries. The neighboring countries have increased their border control on foreigners and the visa requirements have increased but for Zimbabweans to enter South Africa their visa requirements have reduced. Respondent A felt that it is important for him to be well informed about xenophobia because of his personal interest for a better South Africa and its racial history (from apartheid to the present) that would evolve to a positive being. But seeing that it would not happen soon its better to find solutions and dwell with what is at hand.

Respondent B was from Mafikeng a small town near the border of South Africa and Botswana. His definition of xenophobia is a ‘feeling of dislike for those who are different from you’.

He experienced it in Indiana when he was walking towards Martin’s last semester; I am about ten meters away from one elderly couple who have just finished putting their grocery items into the car trunk. The old lady who was already opening the passenger door cautions her husband as I approach: “Watch your back! Watch your back!” and then I remembered that by the way, I am black, and for them, this means I am dangerous and violent. In South Africa he has a sister who worked in one of the xenophobic camps situated in Johannesburg. She spoke of a Mozambiquean male who had survived brutal assaults form angry mobs that used knob carriers, knives as weapons to chase him away from the community. Most of these foreigners had their property burnt to ashes and even family members in the process. These attacks were conducted by lower class citizens who had low level of education and unemployed living in houses made of plastics and cardboard called ‘Imikhukhu’.

At present (November 2009) xenophobia in South Africa; the attitude towards foreigners is still there among the less fortunate and politically naive (not all of them) though it does not take a violent nature. But in June 2008 at the time I was preparing to leave South Africa and continue my studies at IUP, there was belief that the assailants were South African nationals who were disgruntled by the failure of their government to provide housing and jobs as they had promised. To the unemployed nationals it was unfair for them to see foreign nationals getting jobs in their country. Who were ready to do any job at a minimal wage, on the other hand foreign nationals are highly educated. For example, I know of a construction owner who is also an architect and has employed Zimbabwean brick layers and designers. His business is booming because they are highly skilled, reliable and faithful.

The last time I was home was in June 2009 and there has been some improvement; especially the construction industry is doing better since they can get better skilled workers who are willing to take anything for a salary. As well as more foreign national vendors who have been allowed to assimilate back into the communities. From the readings and observation xenophobia has had an effect to the economy by reducing the number of vendors and some are operating more covertly. There has been an increase of black market which may also have led to the increase of crime. Consequently, people resorted to stealing as they seek survival. (NB. not everybody will resort to stealing).

The economic xenophobic attacks, personally haven’t affected him but as a student it might have a bigger impact when he decides to go back home and search for a job where there is a lot of competition not only from nationals but foreigners as well.

Being informed about xenophobia makes him think of the suffering of other people and obliges him to take an initiative to educate his compatriots against xenophobia. I think that these attacks defy our Africanness/humaness and are a sign of   ingratitude and ignorance. Our guerillas used to receive aid from the countries the victims of Xenophobia come from.  Hence, increase/tighten border control, protecting foreign business owners from collateral damage; enforcing a new law system that would cater for the lower citizens might improve education system for South Africans. He thinks the economy is affected by xenophobia because the lower class citizens are the majority of the population and are more keen on xenophobia attacks.

Discussion

The two respondents have different perceptions of xenophobia and their definition depends on personality, what they’re exposed to and geographical location.  Respondent A seems to be located in Mpumalanga next to the border line of South Africa and neighboring countries. In which we would expect him to give vivid descriptions of these attacks and what influence has it had on him and their economy? Seeing that the region he is living in has a high rate of tourist attractions and foreign nationals, he would show a better understanding of the xenophobic attacks.  I would not disagree with him that it is a form of racial discrimination but the grip of the concept seems a bit far stretched. As he mixes allegations and xenophobia, therefore we have to redefine the meaning of xenophobia and have exceptions on what not to include. This is because he is generalizing the fact that as long as there is a foreigner and a national controversy it’s ultimately xenophobia. Yet respondent B might misread the intentions of the old lady, what if she said it because her husband was about to be hit by something, either way she didn’t really specify what she was cautioning him about.  Therefore, assumptions misrepresent the actual facts.

Respond A seems to recognize the crucial degree of xenophobia in South Africa since the attacks are random, then what does it says about the infrastructure and population concentration between foreigners and locals. Meaning, that the locals have the right to blame the government and its institution to let foreigners dominate the land. But not to unleash their anger on foreigners who have good intentions. The major economic effect was when government diverted the funds to cater for the xenophobia victims by providing health care and trying to improve their safety. This is because the victims were scattered all over South Africa and to group them into large groups was even more expensive and risky as the victimizers were well armed. Respondent B, seems to be more keen on what is really happening, because since the beginning of the attacks he followed the due course attentively and currently he observed that the attacks have subsided to the extent that bigger construction companies have managed to hire workers of different nationals and explained to the applicants that its not a matter of national but skill and level of education. By doing this he reduces the risk of having the attacks begin at the work area. Therefore, reducing the unemployment rate and allowing national foreign vendors to operate almost at par with foreign nationals indicating that the government finally decided to respond to the calls of its people and fulfill its promise to them. Even though this was intentionally the increase in crime rate has affected the business industry when company products are stolen and sold on the black market. It damages the brad name of the company as consumers would be mislead to think black market is legal and more resourceful than actual shops.

Respondent B isn’t keen on what happens to his country’s economic status as he overshadows it to generalization because there is a possibility his well off financially and assumes that it won’t affect him as long as he is away from his own country. I might also show ignorance of reality, yet he contradicts himself when he is able to detect that, if the economy goes down then prices go up. And as a student it becomes difficult because the government decreases its budget on education implying that study funds are lowered while universities increase their fees. ? It’s a bit difficult traveling to South Africa’s neighboring countries because I fear they might do the same to me. This might be true, because they too maybe airing their own feelings and views towards foreigners seeing that the leading African country is showing resentment towards them. 

Xenophobic economic situation seems to affect the lower class society because they earn minimum wage which is the majority of the population and if prices rise by a small percentage they feel the pinch.  If government doesn’t provide the same assistance financially they would resort to stealing to make ends meet. The form of media we use to inform ourselves helps us to define the extent to which xenophobia is affecting the economy.

Conclusion

It came apparent that media plays a major role in ascertaining what the economic effects of xenophobia where. People chose to be ignorant about the effect of xenophobia because they believe that it wont affect them in any way even if its financially. Since May 2008, there has been a conceptual reasoning that xenophobic attacks only affect foreigners but in the long run it tarnishes the image of the country and decreases the economic status but improvement is only visible to places where a leeway has been made visible and also attacks were drastic. In this study, economic effects that were identified were the increase in unemployment rate. When the foreigners afraid to return to their own jobs in fear of being assaulted by neighbors who they once called friends causing high absenteeism in the work area. The immigrants who don’t have formal documents cause the competition for housing, jobs because they’re willing to work for a wage below the minimum level. It causes competition for resources such as housing and jobs. This led to tensions in the community. It made the government to diverge its funds into protecting foreigners and abiding to the refugee right to protection.

When the xenophobic attacks began, other foreign countries cautioned their nationals to halt on the traveling plans even if it was business or leisure related. Since tourism brings about 8% of GDP the percentage decreased in fear of being attacked.  

A high crime rate decreases the inflow of cash into the system, which in turn decreases the quantity of products demanded and paid in cash. As consumers would be afraid to purchase new products when after a few months it would be stolen and sold to the black market to someone else for a lesser price than it originally cost. This reduces the demand for quality goods as well as brand names.

Possible recommendation is for governments to create business partnerships between South Africans and foreign nationals in order for them to learn training in the job and develop mental skills for better reasoning. Also to create generation and skills development projects  and to create a set of legal standards and guidelines for all public services so as to legally enforce equal treatment  of foreigners and locals. The major one is to ensure the implementation of existing policies and legislation.

A possible future study could be the impact of xenophobic governmental policies and foreign affairs legislation on the economy as a whole.

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