Building border fences. Restricting immigration. Scapegoating migrants. These are the well-worn strategies of the American and European right wing, in part because they speak to concerns of base voters, even if they aren’t always broadly popular. But these vote-getting strategies aren’t exclusive to right-leaning parties. Last week, the latest rash of xenophobic violence in South Africa left many international commentators pointing fingers at parties across the political spectrum for stoking xenophobic and anti-African migrant violence.
Xenophobic violence has been a persistent problem in South Africa, but the recent clashes prompted an international diplomatic fight between two of Africa’s regional powers: South Africa and Nigeria. South Africa temporarily closed its diplomatic missions in Abuja and Lagos, while Nigeria announced plans to boycott a major economic summit in Cape Town on intra-African trade. Protesters in Nigeria also retaliated with violence against South African-owned businesses. How did things deteriorate so quickly? Here’s what you need to know.
Last month, South African white rights activists toured the United States on a media and lobbying campaign. Members of this group, which they call “AfriForum,” aim at drawing attention to what they allege has been a campaign of violence against white farmers, ignored by the government for racial reasons. They met with staff and members of Congress. They were interviewed on conservative media outlets such as Fox News, BlazeTV, and the One America News Network. The tour was their second in less than a year. No evidence exists that white South Africans are indeed targeted by excess violence. Rather, these groups use the fear of targeted racial violence to find sympathetic audiences to pressure their government into action. Here’s what you need to know about South African white rights activism.
Outraged protesters demanded the removal of statues and monuments celebrating racism and oppression. Traditionalists objected to “erasing history,” even though the memorials were erected years after that history, specifically to remind viewers of white domination and superiority. Sound like the recent U.S. debate over Confederate symbols? It’s also the story of South Africa’s recent debate over monuments to white minority rule. So what, if anything, can the United States learn from South Africa’s similar controversies?