Wherever I go on the internet I see it: the rumour of xenophobic violence in South Africa, lying in wait until after the World Cup. It freaks me out, it makes me sick; it could all be bullshit.

Some people think that even mentioning the rumour allows it to grow into more than a rumour. So far from what I have seen, the government doesn’t appear to be taking any preventative measures. They will probably “wait and see”, and have the police ready to come in. Too late.

I wonder, if there is a rumour of violence against foreigners, is that not enough to start thinking about what needs to be done to mitigate the situation? If the government won’t do anything before the attacks, is it up to the citizens? What would you do to help prepare for such an event in case it happened? Do you think preparing for it is enoucraging something to happen?

I know that xenophobic violence occurred long before the famous attacks in 2008, and has happened many times since. Usually it is on a small scale and doesn’t get reported in the international news. But from the rumours this sounds like another more regimented, organised plan of attacks.

I know this rumour should be taken seriously. I know that xenophobic violence in South Africa will happen again and again and again until there are enough jobs and houses for the locals. There are just too many immigrants for the system to support. There are too many locals for the system to support, it seems. But what to do to help in the short term?

Start getting shelters ready, the same shelters that were used last time? Plan to shelter people yourself? Make a hiding place in your house for people? Tell any foreigners you know living in the townships to lie low and hide, or at least to be aware?

Or just lock your door, and wait?

I just don’t know. I’m not even there to do anything. I do know it won’t be the last time, whether this time is merely a rumour or not.

UPDATE: this rumour is not going around the UK. It is going around South Africa. All of the articles and blog posts I have read have been by South African journos. Here are some links:

Neoscribes. – Baghana-baghandisgusting.

Mail and guardian: high noon in Dunoon.

Mail and guardian: somalis seek safety in numbers.

MAil and guardian: threats are just a rumour. – army moves into Dunoon…

From the old – Nelson Mandela foundation warns of xenophobia after world cup. – foreigners fear post-world cup xenophobia. xenophobic time bomb after world cup.

The Times – Xenophobic attacks our own form of terrorism -June 6th 2010

Eeek. There are so many more. Just google it.


When I wrote this post I had the impression from what I had read that the government wasn’t taking these threats seriously. But now I see in an article published 02 July that they have moved the army into Dunoon  after a persistently threatening situation. I am very impressed to see that they have taken preemptive measures and I’m also impressed that some of the locals helped the foreigners. It’s a dangerous situation considering that these thugs are not particularly interested in where you are from when they are full of hatred.

But I still want to know if you think it is possible for middle class South Africans locked away safely in suburbia, far from the violence, to do anything to get ready to help if widespread violence broke out? And how? I really want to know because I HATE sitting by, watching something like this unfold, feeling helpless, especially when we were warned it was likely to happen.


27 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Peter
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 10:32:04

    Rumours = irrelevant melodramatic nonsense

    Interesting how people, like you, single out xenophobia in South Africa and make it sound like South Africa is going to the dogs when it’s actually a country with heaps of potential, currently hosting a huge football tournament with ease, etc. etc. etc. Everything is always completely blown out of proportion by everyone who don’t live here.

    The irony of course is that you have a HUGE problem with xenophobia in the UK, right on your doorstep (think BNP, EDL!), yet it doesn’t get a mention? How is all that less worrying?

    Yet SA is painstakingly singled out for everything that is bad in the world. It’s annoying to see ex South Africans bash SA with ease without even considering that xenophobia is perhaps a global problem and definitely not unique to South Africa.

    I moved from the UK to South Africa years ago and I absolutely love it here. There’s some obvious problems here but the positives far outweigh the negatives.


  2. tiah
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 10:57:57

    Couldn’t tell you. I do know that we had an incident over land. The municipality has been clearing land for more lots. The lots were specifically aimed at people at the lower-income bracket. However, rather than pay, certain people tried to squat. People who did buy their plots, build their own homes, and have struggled to stay employed or find creative ways to earn money through tough times, were not amused. Nor were the people who were keen to go and buy the lots after putting aside money after huge sacrifice to themselves. The whole thing erupted. Which is a sign of the economy, not racial issues.

    But then again, I don’t live in the trendy areas. There are times where it seems we live in our own little bubble.


  3. Po
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 11:39:24

    Peter: eh I think you misunderstand me. I LOVE South Africa!!!! I love it good and bad. Xenophobia is a big problem in South Africa, you can’t deny that. I am scared that something will happen and people won’t be prepared that’s all. People will die for no reason. Because people should be prapared, there has been ample warning.
    I think if you really love South Africa you cannot be blinded to the bad that goes with the good because that is what makes the place what it is. I think I have real problem with people standing by, watching others die or burn, when there was warning. That’s all.
    I loved the World cup. Peoplle aren’t burning in the streets in the UK. I just don’t want people to die dude. Chill.
    Tiah: I know, the ironic thing is in the “xenophobic violence” quite a few people who were killed or harrassed were actually South African. It’s just extreme frustration bubbling out in the end.


  4. Damaria Senne
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 11:48:57

    @Peter – I guess you’re new to this site, or you’d know that Po has never expressed a belief that SA is going to the dogs. In fact, one of the reasons I visit her site is that she has a big appreciation of South Africa. And yes, she’s not appreciating it from a distance either : she is planning to move back home home when life permits.

    @Po – ; Sorry, not sure you wanted to respond to this. But I felt compelled to set Peter straight, because maybe he is right about some of the allegations if made about some people, but they’re not true as related to you.

    As for your concern about xenophobic attacks, unfortunately, I suspect it’s one of those things that are blown out of proportion outside SA than inside it. It’s like one of those crime stories that were used to scare up potential game attendees before the tournament They even used the fear to market the anti-stabbing vest, remember?

    As for xenophonia right now, most South Africans were really supportive of African countries taking part in world cup soccer. They welcome their brothers and want them to be in the game as long as posisble, and have a drink or two in sympathy when the teams lose and are ousted out of the game. Sure there must be anti-foreign sentiment somewhere, but it’s not vocal and there are no indications that local people are getting ready to act aggressively.

    I’m assuming that government is prepared for potential threats though, just in case something happens. But it’s also strategic to not talk about it too much; to give the rumours too much credence, or to even disclose what their counter-plan would be, so that the’re actions are a surpise.


  5. Cam
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 11:49:29

    Well if it gets all thecheating Uruguayan’s out the country then I’m all for it…along with the illegal Nigerian criminals.

    I agree with Peter…it’s all over the world! Just look at the states and how they treat those poor Mexicans…no one ever thinks about the, Mexicans!

    This country rocks…and I’m tired of all the long distance moaning.

    Moan moan moan moan moan!


  6. Damaria Senne
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 11:49:41

    @ po – Weird; seems like we were writing our responses at the same time?


  7. Damaria Senne
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 11:54:19

    LOL Cam. A writer friend of mine is also annoyed with Uruguay at the moment. But then, she’s annoyed with Nigeria too, LOL:-)
    She says
    “I still continue to be pissed because I would have wished for the Nigerian callers of last blogpost to fall on their face after a Ghana World Cup lift (someone please explain to me again …there is Benin and Togo between Ghana and Nigeria so what is with the animosity?)

    And then yesterday afternoon I laughed. I was in Vilakazi Street, Soweto celebrating and mourning Ghana’s loss with my fellow Africans. The Ghanaian team made it there and it was a sight to behold. South Africans of all races yelling and cheering the players while waving the green, red, gold and black star that is the Ghanaian flag.


  8. Cam
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 12:01:28

    Po by moaning I mean all the negative media crap I’ve read this and that…it clearly wan’t evident on Friday night.

    One Aus paper said “you can walk straight into soccer city without a ticket”! Huh, we went thru 3 security check points, and didn’t queue once…the guy even inspected my Zambuk!

    Therefore, I’m sure they’re just rumors.


  9. Cam
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 12:02:43

    DS the Ghana support was amazing! Sad they lost like that really sad.


  10. Po
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 12:08:24

    guys, this rumour is not in the UK. The UK doesn’t really pay attention to what goes on in SA. So this is not an international rumour at all. I will have to link in my post to the rumour articles, they are all written by South Africans in South Africa.


  11. Po
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 12:26:45

    This was my response to a blog question on BBC Africa, titled, “Has the World cup made South African more tolerant?”
    You can’t confuse the reception African foreigners will receive during the WC to what goes on in South Africa normally. The sense of unity that South Africans feel with Africa has always been very strong. Many South Africans will refer to other Africans as brothers. They love Africa, as an abstract concept, and they always have. They are proud of African nations who won their freedom from colonial rulers.

    South Africans will welcome any foreigners to the WC with open arms, and will always support African teams. However when the tourists go home, and the country is faced with the usual problem of millions of immigrants illegal and legal, who are competing with already disadvantaged South Africans for basic housing and jobs that are very scarce, well, the resentment will be there as usual and the violence will boil up again and again.

    South African people are no more tolerant or intolerant than any others, but the circumstances in which many of them live lead to problems that won’t go away until the problems are solved.


  12. Helen
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 13:11:00

    Meeeep. I’m hoping these are just more unfounded rumours, we’e done so well and I really don’t want the amazing unity of the world cup to be marred by crazy xenophobic attacks. I just hope that the ‘carryover benefits’ are enough to at least start us dealing with some of the underlying issues that make people so frustrated.


  13. Shannon
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 18:15:09

    @Cam: Mexicans aren’t being killed in the States. There’s a lot of resentment right now aimed at illegals particularly in border states (Texas, Arizona, Cali) largely because economic woes always fuel it, and illegal immigration and border control is undeniably a serious issue. But Mexican immigrants, legal and il-, attend school, receive some benefits, including healthcare (no one can be turned away from a public hospital for anything ranging from an ear infection to cancer), etc. There is quite a bit of resentment, particularly of any public benefits, in some sectors of society, but no violence. So not entirely comparable. Sorry–if you’re allowed to love and defend your country, I’m allowed to love and defend mine. ;)

    @Po: I think the M&G had a piece on how Casspirs were already in one of the townships where violence is rumored, perhaps a week ago if I remember. So perhaps there is some sort of preemptive action?


  14. Po
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 21:53:15

    Shannon: yes, I saw that the army was called in recently into Dunoon because of persistent threats. So I should take back what I said about the government! The reason I said it in the first place is because I read an article where a minister made a statement that he was ignoring the rumours, but that the police would be called in if necessary. It seemed to me like they weren’t going to take preemptive action. But I think they are and that is great.
    There is xenophobia everywhere, like you say. Like Peter says, of course there is xenophobia here too, but people here don’t live in as unfortunate conditions so the violence does not reach the same levels. Like I said before, South Africans are not really more or less tolerant, it is the situation that makes the violence worse. That and the fact that foreigners are just used as scapegoats for all the country’s problems. Why don’t they blame the government instead?!


  15. Cam
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 11:06:07

    Shannon…so gang violence in the states doesn’t count as violence? Sorry, must have been mistaken.

    Guess Iraq and Afghanistan weren’t violent either.

    Po, sorry to say this on your blog but this ‘Shannon’ has been abusing her 5th all over the interwebs.


  16. Po
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 11:18:57

    Cam: the issue here is the xenophobic violence in South Africa, that’s all. It’s a real problem happening now, with tanks in Dunoon. I’m not criticising anyone, any country. Of course there is violence everywhere, as Shannon admits. This post is about what can be done in South Africa, with no positive or negative jusdgements from my part. I was hoping someone would come up with something to do to help, not get defensive and bring up violence in other countries. Of course there is violence in other countries. But the xenophobic violence in South Africa is a very real problem. Why are people denying it, or being defensive about it?


  17. Cam
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 12:25:00

    Po…because it’s a rumor! Until it happens, why harp on the negative thats nothing but a media driven rumor!

    The problem with South Africans is we always focusing on these negatives which create the ‘real problems’, instead of avoiding them and doing something positive for a change! So tired of this same debate!

    We’re happy here. The World Cup has shown how positive we can be…there were 80 000 Ghana supports which 90% were South Africa. Not quite xenophobic! So there’s your issue Po.

    Now can everybody please stop fing critising us for God’s sake!!!!!


  18. Po
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 12:44:08

    I am not criticising anyone. I wish you could see that. In Dunoon they had to call the army in already. I am not criticising. I wish I could repeat this until you understand. I think it is wrong when people are warned something will happen and you don’t try to do something,so I was hoping to try and figure out how to do something.

    I am not criticising anyone. Just trying to be proactive. The football has nothing to do with this. It’s not a rumour it is already happening.
    A south african blogging journalist was writing about it, which is why I brought it up in the first place. It is not about focussing on negative or positive, it is about things happening right now and what can be done. That’s all.
    People are too defensive. Ther are no accusations, no blame, no anything. Just trying to figure out a proactive situation.
    Shannon is the only commentor who actually read some of the articles before commenting. Everyone else is being defensive about something I am not attacking. Did anyone even read my post? I am not criticising anyone except the government and even then I admitted that they ARE doing something after all and I am impressed.


  19. Po
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 12:50:05

    If anyone can show me anywhere in my post where I criticised anyone or anything, other than the government, and then I corrected myself later, I will apologise. But I can’t find one word of criticism in my post. I can’t find any criticism on this page from Shannon either.

    Where is the criticism?


  20. Shannon
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 13:21:03

    No worries, Po. You need never apologize for anything you didn’t do. I don’t speak for all 300 million Americans and you don’t speak for 50 million South Africans. Carry on, little trooper. :)

    As to the issue at hand: much as Casspirs in a township evoke some ugly images of the past, perhaps it will show people the police mean business and there will be consequences to actions and therefore act as a deterrent.


  21. Cam
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 18:19:32

    People in glass house should throw stones Po.

    Guys, with all due respect, don’t patronise me when you don’t live here…I have it on good authority so don’t believe the media until it is real!

    I heard a rumor the Mayans say the world will end on 2012…craps, should I phone their government??? Oh well, until then…I’ll just enjoy my life in suburbia and be positive, thanks. Oh, and defensive.

    Sorry Po.


  22. Shannon
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 18:45:22

    Fair enough, Cam. I assume you’ll be revoking your comments on US immigration issues and gang violence since, you know, you don’t live here so it’s patronising. :)


  23. Cam
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 21:50:59

    Fair enough. I’ll just cancel my subscription to Time then Shannon…they misled me, like other media. :)


  24. Po
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 22:15:31

    Eh. All I can say is: type “xenophobia South Africa” into google and click on news. See how it updates every hour or so. Read some of the articles, written by South African journalists. Maybe my title was wrong. I should have written “threats”, not “rumours”.
    People have told the foreigners to get out of Dunoon by the 12 of July or they will die. That is not a rumour that is a threat. And the Zimbabweans are queuing to catch trucks out of Cape Town by the dozen. They are not waiting to see if the “rumour” is true. They have been threatened. They are so tired of living in fear all the time and never knowing what will happen. So I guess if any Capetonian wanted to help they could drive a Zimbabwean to somewhere where they might feel a bit safer til the threat goes away.
    Sweet. I answered my own question, cos no one else was doing it.


  25. Shannon
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 03:09:36

    Just saw an article to the same effect in the Cape Argus. Haven’t checked M&G today.

    A friend at St. George’s Cathedral said they are on alert to serve as an emergency shelter if needed–I think they have a good relationship with the Trauma Centre in Cape Town so they may be coordinating efforts, I know they did in 2008. Hopefully none of it will be needed but good to know there’s some preparation.


  26. Nemesis
    Jul 20, 2010 @ 12:12:09

    Hey Po.
    Late reply. havent gone through all the comments, but it has been two weeks and at least three weeks since I wrote that blog. besides a few incidents in Cape Town, it seems like the “attacks” have not been as horrid as in 2008 yet. But it is really hard to draw the line as the media with something like this you know? say nothing or say something (which can be seen by some as instigating it).
    it was a tough one to call, but as they say information is power!

    Loving the new blog layout :)


  27. Po
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 10:27:33

    Hey Nemesis, I have to say I am impressed with the government’s response this time round, and probably theyw ould have ignored the rumours if it wasn’t for the media. It is a delicate balance of not fueling the fire, but not ignoring serious issues.


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