The well orchestrated violence (pitting locals against hapless “foreigners” in the township of Alexandra, north of Johannesburg) has left over 60 black immigrants dead and many displaced. At least 36 000 people have returned to Mozambique from South Africa, while displaced Somalis are threatening to drown themselves.
According to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) which has treated many victims of live bullets, beatings and rape, it is a classic refugee situation that will eventually overwhelm the authorities. South African police have been stretched so thin that there are growing calls to deploy the military to help quell the situation.
The xenophobia is particularly shameful for the "Rainbow Nation" which owes its liberation to a multitude of African countries. What is happening in South Africa today is an act of misplaced frustration resulting from South African citizens whose lives are not improving under the reign of the ANC (black) government. It is also a classic case of identifying and fighting the wrong enemy.
Could South Africans be unknowingly playing into the hands of forces that want to see the country lose its status of hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup on insecurity grounds? Could it be an ochestrated move to pressurize Zimbabweans to go back to their country and forcefully oust Mugabe for subjecting them to suffering abroad? Or more still, could it be a punishment for Mbeki who has all along played silence diplomacy on Zimbabwe issues? Could it be ordinary dissatisfaction aggravated by the sudden surge in the cost of living attributed to the global increase of food and fuel prices?
South Africa's case is a classic example of how a country can boast of economic growth while in the real sense, the growth can't be measured in terms of improved living standards among ordinary citizens. It is high time that African elites ensured that they grow together with the rest of the citizens. It is time that African governments enacted policies that aim at expanding the middle class. Mbeki's government has all the keys to ensure this.