Racial tensions in Phoenix, Durban are still on the brew as the Economic Freedom Fighters stage a march in the area following the recent unrest seen last month, and while reports that have emerged paint the picture of an attack on Black people by Indians, analysts say there are many issues at play.
In an interview with Radio Islam, writer and analyst Ebrahim Harvey unpacks the issue saying that in the history of South Africa, violence on this scale has never been seen, even in a working-class class area like Phoenix, reports of racially fuelled violence is virtually unheard of. Harvey believes Jacob Zuma’s faction exploited the people.
“It’s a combination of things what happened there, but clearly the Zuma people, that faction, exploited the unprecedented poverty, desperate unemployment,” says Harvey.
The racial and geographical backdrop in Phoenix, shows a pattern explains Harvey, of different races and classes living and working in the same area – where a minority is slightly better off than their racial counterparts. A situation like this breeds contempt. Phoenix is predominantly Indian working to middle class and sits at the foot of three Black townships and the various races have lived alongside each other for decades but as racial tensions have flared, some fear that the unrest could spread to areas that are similar in race and geographical make up.
“Poverty has bred a lot of resentment among African people in particular because I tell you they are still right at the bottom of the pile and African women in particular,” explains Ebrahim.
Harvey however still believes that the violence emerged due to the lack of police presence.
“There was hardly a visible police presence, all the media people commented it… there’s been cut backs on the police budget, even on the defense force but its because of a lack of police presence, people were gripped with fear, there was a lot of pandemonium, panic amongst people… their safety, their children their property, everything,” said Harvey.
It was under these circumstances, rather than on the basis of racism that private security companies were called in to protect people and their families.
According to Harvey, some of the worst racism comes from Africans and it can be seen on social media, EFF leader Julius Malema uses race bating to rally support, he says “They [EFF] don’t understand race and racial discourse,”
“This thing that Blacks can’t be racist is absolute rubbish… it’s a reactive racism, it’s a bitter resentment because look what’s happened to the lot of people, especially the working class, they are materially worse off now than they were during the apartheid era,” says Harvey.
Referring to water and sanitation, and other services Harvey says local government and townships are falling apart under ANC rule.
Harvey says racism is everywhere, and it is coming from Africans as well, racial profiling and generalisation are inaccurate depictions of what is really happening.