Cleaning up xenophobia’s mess

Grahamstown Residence marching against Xenophobia Photo: Luyanda Mahlinza

Grahamstown Residence marching against Xenophobia
Photo: Luyanda Mahlinza

In April 2015, South Africa saw a resurgence in xenophobic violence in many of its cities. While the government has resorted to Operation Fiela to resolve the issues of xenophobia, the Rhodes University International Office Launched their #KnowAfrica campaign at the international day Parade to spread the kind of awareness needed to prevent xenophobia in the future. Thandi Bombi Reports below.

“The International Office is running a Know Africa project,” said International Programmes, Projects and Events Officer, Allan Magubane. “This project was born over the past couple of years. We have been speaking to international students and staff members on campus through the various projects and events that we have been doing. Over the years we have seen that there is very little that is known about the African Continent.”

A country as diverse as South Africa could stand to benefit from campaigns such as these. Providing knowledge and awareness however, is not at the top of the agenda for the government who see Operation Fiela as the best way to resolve issues related to the xenophobic attacks.

Operation Fiela (Reclaim) which is aimed at cracking down on crime and restoring order in areas hit by xenophobic violence has seen South African police, with the support of the army, raiding hostels, and informal settlements and arresting hundreds of undocumented foreign nationals and seizing illegal weapons.

Although the operation has been highly criticized by civic society and deemed “state sponsored xenophobia”, the government maintains that this is a necessary operation for the country. “Operation Fiela strives to apprehend and disarm those with illegal firearms in society, it is meant to discover and disarm everybody, foreign and national” said ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe according to a report on IOL news. “The operation is not harassment at all,” he added, “this is an effort to regulate everyone.”

While both #KnowAfrica and Operation Fiela are aimed at preventing another insurgence of xenophobia, only one of these seeks to be inclusive and educational, “by introducing the Know Africa hashtag the international office is inviting people within our community who are from different parts of our continent to help us with insight and different perspectives into some of the issues that are topical,” said Magubane.

In a world where actions speak louder than words, whose project will prevail?

One that seeks to inform the country through words and hashtags or one that uses force to restore order and justice?


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