Xenophobia at an All-Time High

Phaswane Mpe’s Welcome to Our Hillbrow is a post-apartheid narrative that is circled around three main subjects: Aids, Xenophobia, and Suicide. Although South Africa has come a long way since then, it is apparent by this very recent video that xenophobia within the country is still as resilient as ever. African born foreigners in South Africa, specifically in Johannesburg, are subject to heinous and violent xenophobic crimes. Many black South African locals that were interviewed suggested that these crimes are a result of the ‘Makwerekwere’ – foreigners – who are responsible for low wages and unemployment within the community. The number of crimes committed by locals against foreigners is far too big for the police to take control of. Or, as one commenter stated, it is because “the South African Police [are] one of the silent proponents of Xenophobia”, similar to Refentše’s cousin within the novel.

It is interesting how xenophobia, or cases of “criminality” as police officials from this video have described, are attributed to the facts aforementioned. In the book, however, where the events took place at a much earlier time frame, xenophobia was attributed to things such as the Makwerekwere women being, presumably, sexually loose and open-thighed, or to the claim that all Makwerekwere such as Nigerians were drug dealers and distributors.

How were these theories changed overtime and what caused them to change? Is this current resentment a result of preexisting notions of xenophobia in South Africa disguised as other resentments such as the ones described in the book? 

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