20 May 2008

Paid to kill foreigners

Xenophobia, racism and the media: there are some more than usually disturbing elements about this report, and some others about xenophobic violence against foreigners.
clipped from www.sowetan.co.za

A Soweto hostel resident has told police that he was paid to carry out the attacks on foreign nationals in the township.

The man was arrested with six others who looted houses belonging to those they believed were foreign nationals in White City, Jabavu, on Sunday night.

The violence which had claimed the lives of 22 people since last week, had been spreading like wild fire in Gauteng townships.

The Soweto police, however, also issued a stern warning to against anyone who dared to mount xenophobic attacks in the township. They said they would do everything in their power to prevent large scale black-on-black violence.

In the 1990s a third force element was responsible for black-on-black attacks that claimed the lives of thousands of people in the townships.

Basani Sondlane, a Tsonga-speaking South African, whose RDP house was looted, said she was alerted by her neighbours that Nancefield Hostel dwellers were coming.

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Many have suspected that the xenophobic violence in Gauteng over the last couple of months has been deliberately instigated by a group of people bent on fanning the flames of hatred. There are stories of people arriving taxis and doing this. Also, the fact that the violence flares up in one place, and then starts up in another. It looks suspiciously like an arsonist trying to start a veld fire -- setting light to a patch of grass here, and another patch there, until the whole hillside is ablaze. But this is the first account indicating that the police have evidence that this may be what is happening.

What is even more disturbing, however, is the use of the term "black-on-black violence" in this and other reports. This seems to indicate that our media (and the police, since it was quoting a police spokesman) are still racist, and that we haven't really moved on from apartheid.

When Yugoslavia erupted into violence 16 years ago, did any reports call it "white-on-white violence"? I can't remember any. So what does blackness have to do with violence that whiteness doesn't?

I suggest thart thwe term "black-on-black violence" is a deliberately racist attempt to implant the idea that black people are inherently violent. When white people are violent, it's just violence. But when black people are violent, somehow the word "black" has to be brought into association with the term "violence" when reporting it.

I hope never again to have to read that term.

It's nasty, it's ugly, and it's racist.

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