What is it about?

Over the last twenty years South Africa has experienced a surge in xenophobic violence. For more than a decade, the state-sanctioned interpretation of this violence was as follows: it is ‘just crime’. This article examines the popularity of the government’s interpretation of xenophobic violence by looking at nationally representative public opinion data. The government’s ‘just crime’ discourse was found to be unpopular and most of the general population favoured other interpretations.

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Why is it important?

The results of this study demonstrate a widespread acceptance of negative stereotypes about foreigners in South Africa. Many in the country blame the violence on the actions of the foreign-born, seeing the attacks as a form of vigilantism. This victim-blaming is dangerous as it demeans those affected by xenophobic violence and may also lead victims to secondary victimization (i.e., invert or overt discrimination against survivors of hate crimes).


The article shows that there is a need to better educate the general population in South Africa about xenophobia and provide it with relevant factual information about the real attributes and impacts that foreigners have on local communities in the country.

Dr Steven Lawrence Gordon
Human Sciences Research Council

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The Popularity of State Discourses on Anti-Immigrant Violence in South Africa, The Round Table, September 2019, Taylor & Francis,
DOI: 10.1080/00358533.2019.1658345.
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