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Scapegoating in South Africa: busting the myths about immigrants

Neelam Rahim – neelam@radioislam.co.za

4 minute read
18 September 2022
9:40 am CAT

A new report by the Institute for Security Studies has found that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than South Africans and more likely to create jobs for South Africans. The new report explored the claims fuelling anti-foreigner sentiment, which has seen immigrants blamed for various social and economic problems in South Africa and reinforces xenophobic beliefs.

Speaking to Radio Islam International, a researcher at the ISS’ Lizette Lancaster, said, ‘if we keep on saying things, we start believing them, and this is the perception acquired by people.

According to Lizette, upon the statistic breakdown and readings of the accurate data on these types of topics, it is seen that the picture is not complete.

She said the first is there are not 17 to 40 million immigrants in the country but around 4 million, which is about 6,5 per cent of the population.

“It is impossible for them to be solely responsible for the burden on the State’s services.”

Rapid urbanisation is considered as people moving to the cities from rural areas to access opportunities and resources. It is a combined effect that places a burden on the services.

“Services plagued by corruption, mismanagement and inefficiencies,” says Lizette.

The other popular belief is that immigrants take opportunities away from South Africa. In comparison, Lizette’s research shows quite the opposite. She tells Radio Islam the benefit of the immigrants is that one immigrant, on average, creates two local jobs.

“This includes the informal and formal sector, multinational businesses and such.”

Regarding the finding of crimes, Lizette said while there are immigrants involved in crime, we are in a country plagued by crime and corruption as it is. Most criminals in South Africa remain South Africans.

Of the inmate populations in SA’s prisons, 7.5 to 8.5 per cent might be immigrants, but only 2.3 per cent of the inmates are undocumented immigrants.

According to Lizette, these immigrants are likely to be convicted of minor crimes like the use of drugs and such simply because they are targeted more by the police than non-immigrants.

She added that most of the beneficiaries are South Africans, looking into gangs anywhere from Eldorado Park to the Cape Flats or Kayalietsha to Dipesloot.

Meanwhile, it is pretty convenient for some government officials to gather the blame on foreigners than to face up to the fact that service delivery is dismal and corruption is rife.

“This makes it easier to deflect and blame foreigners than take responsibility for state failure,” she added.

Listen below to the interview with Mufti Yusuf Moosagie and Lizette Lancaster on Radio Islam’s podcast. 




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