Shops set ablaze, looted as xenophobic attacks spread in South Africa
By Faith Karimi and Diana Magnay, CNN
Updated 10:05 PM ET, Fri April 17, 2015
Johannesburg (CNN)South African police fired rubber bullets Friday to disperse crowds setting immigrant businesses ablaze as attacks against foreigners spread to Johannesburg.
Chanting and singing, machete-armed residents burned down shops owned by foreigners, including a Nigerian dealership in the nation’s largest city.
Immigrants carrying bricks accused police of not doing enough to protect them as businesses smoldered.
Violence targeting immigrant shops started recently in the port city of Durban, where two foreigners and three South Africans were killed. Residents have accused African immigrants of taking their jobs and committing crimes. The unemployment rate in South Africa is 25%, according to government figures.
Back in 2009 in Taki’s Magazine, I pointed out that the Best Picture-nominated District 9 by Boer refugee Neill Blomkamp wasn’t wholly the “apartheid allegory” that American reviewers automatically assumed. Blomkamp kept explaining that his movie was also a metaphor for black v. black tensions over immigration in Johannesburg. Here’s an interview in Salon from the time:
O’Hehir: “You know, these images are pretty uncomfortable, especially for Americans who tend to be so careful in public discussions of race: Here’s a white guy from South Africa making a movie with scary, murderous black African villains.”
Blomkamp: “Sure, I’m totally aware of that. … Unfortunately, that’s the reality of it, and it doesn’t matter how politically correct or politically incorrect you are. The bottom line is that there are huge Nigerian crime syndicates in Johannesburg. I wanted the film to feel real, to feel grounded, and I was going to incorporate as much of contemporary South Africa as I wanted to, and that’s just how it is.
“… I wanted these impoverished black citizens of South Africa to have this disdain for another group.
“… Another part of recent South African history that isn’t world news is that the collapse of Zimbabwe has introduced millions of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants into South African cities. … Now you have this powder-keg situation, with black against black … [W]e woke up one morning to find out that Johannesburg was eating itself alive. Impoverished South Africans had started murdering impoverished Zimbabweans, necklacing them and burning them and chopping them up.”