By Yazir Henri and Anis Saleh
While it is alarming, it is not altogether coincidental that
There is undoubtedly a direct link between this violence and the ever deepening impoverishment among already poor South Africans. The projection into the future of this bi-social ill is bleak given the inability of relevant state actors to respond effectively to this particular crisis and suggests that the ‘xenophobic’ violence in South Africa could easily resurface and may well be replaced, in the future, with more intensive internalised violence directed at the self and against groups locally identified as ‘other’. What is certain in this case is the violence in
Right now impoverishment among the urban ‘black’ poor is being intensified by the escalation of the price of oil and petrol. Related price increases include bread, maize meal, paraffin and transport that have direct impact on the ability of those living in this abject economic context to survive, daily deepening the experience, the feeling and the reality of life in emergency and temporality - more importantly it feeds the hopelessness. Over the last few years the price of oil and petrol has escalated dramatically. All basic commodities have in turn increased by almost fifty percent and in some cases more. The implication of this increase in the prices of commodities means a gross and rapid reduction in the affordability levels amongst the poor. In some instances affordability levels are 75% of what it was last year. This, together with an uncaring public policy toward the same poor, the lack of service delivery, and failure of municipal and state structures to spend their budgets on delivering basic help, is a recipe for trouble.
This has been exacerbated further by the ‘unemployability’ rates among the urban poor not improving significantly. The hike in lending rates and the simplistic, multiple and myopic calls by the reserve bank to simply tighten our belts makes it even more difficult for those who have no belts to tighten. His calls could quite easily be interpreted as tightening the noose around one’s neck instead of the belt around one’s waist.
Inviting in the army to halt the ‘xenophobic’ violence may have been necessary for temporary relief but it will not denaturalise violence nor will it resolve the structural problems affecting the poor in
Several short- to medium-term interventions are immediately necessary. Among the first steps, and in addition to relief for the humanitarian crises facing those displaced by the violence, more affirming public economic empowerment initiatives should be created directly impacting the poor in order to develop individual and collective self-sustainability. In the absence of the shops destroyed, publicly-owned shops should be created, empowering locals as well as migrants and refugees to compete in this growing local market. Communication and transport must be made more affordable and more encouraging efforts must be made to localise and stimulate food production. For this, more autonomous economic and development structures need to be created in partnership with communities affected by the violence. The unspent money in government and municipal coffers must be unlocked and those not delivering must be held accountable. The huge civic effort witnessed at the onset of the violence needs to be multiplied and also directed at stopping the violence that we all so easily come to accept as normal.
The above entry is excerpted from a longer article that can be accessed here.