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World Cup 2010: Fears of xenophobic blacklash

South Africans warn of possible violence against foreigners in aftermath of World Cup.

“These threats are coming from many different people: neighbors, colleagues, taxi drivers, passersby on the street, but also from nurses, social workers and police officers,” the group said in a press statement. “Worrying, too, is that some of those making the threats believe that they have the support of senior political leaders.”

The South African government last month re-established an inter-ministerial committee to address the threats of attacks against foreign nationals, as well as any incidents that happen.

But Deputy Police Minister Fikile Mbalula has dismissed concerns that there will be attacks after the World Cup and said that in the event of violence, police would come down hard on those responsible.

“We are in charge, not the criminals. This is not a banana republic and we will not allow citizens becoming law unto themselves,” he said in a statement. “We are all Africans and the spirit that was shown in supporting the six African teams participating in the World Cup has been and is tremendous, and it cannot in anyway suggest animosity amongst African brothers and sisters.”

However, one survey shows a high level of negative perceptions of foreign nationals. A recent survey on quality of life in South Africa’s Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria, residents of all backgrounds expressed a dislike of foreigners. The Gauteng City Region Observatory survey of 6,636 residents found that 69 percent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that “foreigners are taking benefits meant for South Africans.” Of people with no education, 75 percent agreed with the statement, as well as 73 percent of people with post-high school education.

Duncan Breen, advocacy officer for the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa, suggested an important high-profile gesture such as a public condemnation by senior government leaders, from town mayors to the president, of all acts of violence against foreigners.

“This would help dispel the myth that there is tacit support for these threats,” he said.

On a more local level, conflict resolution in townships needs to be strengthened to help deal with issues before they erupt into violence, Breen said.

Another issue is that access to justice needs to be strengthened to deal with the “culture of impunity” around violence against foreign nationals.

Breen said he is continuing to hear from people who are very concerned about violence after the World Cup.

“The fact that people are wanting to go back to Zimbabwe — these are people who are working here and they would give up their jobs to go back," he said. "They are taking it very seriously.”