Xenophobic Rhetoric Heightens Tensions in South Africa’s Election Campaigns


TOPSHOT – South African looters take items from an alleged foreign-owned shops during a riot in the Johannesburg suburb of Turffontein on September 2, 2019 as angry protesters loot alleged foreign-owned shops in a new wave of violence targeting foreign nationals. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)

As South Africa gears up for the upcoming general elections on May 29, 2024, migration has emerged as a contentious issue, with politicians using immigrants as scapegoats to gain votes. The discourse surrounding irregular migration has become increasingly polarized, fueling concerns about potential violence against foreign nationals.

Leaders like Herman Mashaba of ActionSA and Gayton McKenzie of the Patriotic Alliance have been vocal in blaming undocumented migrants for various societal problems, from crime to unemployment. Their inflammatory statements have sparked fears of xenophobic violence and discrimination against foreign nationals living in South Africa.

The government’s response to immigration-related issues has also been concerning, with calls for mass deportations and heightened anti-immigrant sentiment following tragic incidents like the fire in Johannesburg that claimed many lives. Such rhetoric risks inciting community violence and targeting individuals based on their immigration status, highlighting the urgent need for responsible discourse and adherence to electoral codes of conduct.

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