Thursday, April 23, 2015

Xenophobia through the eyes of children of the inner city of Johannesburg

TRAUMA DEBRIEFING GROUP SESSION                                              21 APRIL 2015
ISSUE: XENOPHOBIA (Violence and Attacks)

The session was done with the inner-city children who come to our center (JPCCC) for boxing at the gym and the Life Skills programme on a weekly basis after school hours. As we know that Johannesburg city consists of many immigrants from different countries in Africa such as Zimbabwe, Angola, Botswana, DRC, Mozambique, Malawi, Nigeria, etc. who come to South Africa to find a better life. The inner-city population is diverse and multicultural including people from various places or provinces across South Africa to also find a better life. It is a place where everyone comes from their homes of origin, the city of gold, to dwell in the inner city to find jobs and make a living. Some people decide to work while others decide to start businesses, create jobs and feed many by providing for their families. The inner-city children are enrolled in many different schools in the city which are diverse, multicultural and multilingual.

These children walk to school together, play with one another and live in the same neighborhood. This is just a background to have an understanding of where these children come from. The issue was noted in the gym during their training session as the older boys spoke about Xenophobia and appeared to be affected by the xenophobic violence and attacks taking place in the inner-city.

In the session we had with the children, we first asked them their understanding of the concept Xenophobia. Some of the responses which were stated are the following: “Extreme hatred of foreign nationals; unreasonable dislike of people from other countries; people killing others to get out of their country”. This process was very intense and uncomfortable.
There’s a myth about the Zulu men killing people and burning foreign nationals by putting petrol, bombs and lighters. Another myth which emerged throughout the session is Nigerians sending Boko Haram soldiers to South Africa to kill all South Africans and bomb the country. This indicates the fear of the consequences of xenophobic attacks and violence. These children also expressed fear of what could happen next, they appeared to be concerned about what will happen next.

The group consisted of both local and immigrant children and it was overwhelming as a facilitator to be caught into the situation. Many immigrant children expressed anger, pain and fear for their own lives and the lives of their family and friends. They expressed their anger by stating how xenophobic violence and attacks are affecting businesses, the country’s reputation and the economy. Laziness and crime was stated as a cause of xenophobia according to some of the children. They expressed that people who come to South Africa work very hard and create jobs for many people and Zulu men think they are stealing their jobs, but in reality they are actually lazy. One of the boys stated that: “I blame the Zulus and I feel bad because they are taking advantage of the situation, thugs too to get some money because they are lazy to do any job’. Another important theme which stood out was that these children’s school teachers are trying to campaign against xenophobia and encouraging all the children in the school to be against it and stop it. Even though the children felt that it was not enough.