More than 14 years have passed since deadly xenophobic attacks swept unexpectedly through South Africa’s townships and informal settlements. The 2008 wave of violence left more than 60 people dead, hundreds injured and tens of thousands displaced from their homes, forcing them to find refuge in makeshift refugee camps, community halls and police stations.
Now in 2023, xenophobia is still on the rise. Bouts of violence are becoming more frequent. South African social-media timelines are punctuated with inflammatory language steeped in hatred. These days the violence is often referred to as “cleaning” and refugees and migrants are called “cockroaches” or “locusts”. What is being done to prevent this violence?
Many believe that the root of this problem lies largely in the belief (by South Africans) that migrants are solely to blame for South Africa’s economic woes. Poor South Africans are suffering under the yoke of poverty, unemployment and poor service delivery. Covid-19 has added even more pressure. We blame “foreigners” and direct our anger at them —not the government.
Part of these images are contained in [BR]OTHER, a visual record of this turmoil. The foreword, written by former Constitutional Court judge, Justice Edwin Cameron, is accompanied by critical texts by Achille Mbembe, João Silva, Justice Malala, Koketso Moeti and others.
In documenting these events, the work aims to draw attention to the dangers that lie in hatred, intolerance and indifference. It is an urgent call to action. As a society we must not ignore the warning signs.