Over the past week, at least 22 people have been killed, hundreds more injured and 10,000 forced to flee their burned and looted homes in poor townships around Johannesburg after a series of attacks on immigrants by groups of South Africans.
Such violence may have surprised foreigners who view South Africa as a "modern, industrialised country, with one of the worlds most progressive constitutions", says Sean Jacobs in The Guardian. But the truth is that South Africa is also one of the "most xenophobic countries in the world".
Maybe, agrees Tendani Siala in The Sunday Times' South African edition, but you can't blame locals for worrying about the unprecedented flood of immigrants over the past decade. More than three million Zimbabweans alone have fled here since 2000, and although South Africa's economy has been booming averaging growth of more than 5% over the past five years very little of the wealth has filtered down.
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Worse, local South Africans think immigrants and refugees are stealing their jobs, houses, and some men even think they're stealing their women. All this is embarrassing for Mbeki, who has made African solidarity a pillar of his presidency. What's needed now is a "massive anti-xenophobia education drive" alongside concerted efforts to help all South Africa's vulnerable families.
That's all very well, but many South Africans think Mbeki should simply leave the country and never come back, says Barney Mthombothi in The Wall Street Journal. The real problem here is Zimbabwe, whose recent violence is an indictment of Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy". His indulgence of the Mugabe regime has "severely damaged his country's image and interests". Zimbabwe could "have cemented Mbeki's legacy as one of Africa's great statesmen of his time". Instead, it will contribute to his downfall.
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