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Xenophobia Raises Ugly Head in South Africa

May 2008

Dozens of people have been killed and tens of thousands displaced across South Africa in a wave of anti-immigrant violence over the past several weeks. This comes against a backdrop of growing impatience with the government’s anemic efforts to overcome the chronic poverty and massive social inequality inherited from the apartheid era, now more than a decade and a half behind them, and in the face of rising political violence in neighboring Zimbabwe from where many of the 5-10 million “foreigners” come.

Progressive South Africans, including community-based social movements active in many of the townships where the violence is taking place, have condemned the attacks and mobilized to protect and support the victims, as the government, slow to react at first, has announced plans to set up small camps along the border to house incoming refugees. But the mushrooming needs within South Africa’s crowded urban areas are placing enormous burdens on already overstretched and under-resourced movements like the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Committee, Abahlali baseMjondolo (a Durban-based shackdwellers movement), the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and others working on the ground.

For Grassroots International friends and supporters looking for a way to help we have a suggestion. While we ourselves currently do not work in South Africa, we know and trust these organizations on the ground as well as here in our own backyard, in Jamaica Plain.

The South Africa-based Treatment Action Campaign and the Boston-based South Africa Development Fund are working together to enable friends and supporters from the United States to pitch in. You can donate directly through a dedicated page on their website. TAC and other civil society groups are collaborating to provide food, medicine and blankets; alleviate suffering; protect those targeted for further violence; and share information among responders and with the media and the public.

You can also send a check to South Africa Development Fund at 555 Amory St, Boston, MA 02130. Please indictae that TAC is the beneficiary. 

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