South Africa Sees Rise of Anti-Immigrant Politics

A speaker addresses an audience at an African Basic Movement event in this undated photo taken at an unidentified location. (Source - ABM Twitter @realABM_ZA)
A speaker addresses an audience at an African Basic Movement event in this undated photo taken at an unidentified location. (Source – ABM Twitter @realABM_ZA)

JOHANNESBURG —

A new South African political party wants the government to expel all foreigners, claiming they bring crime into the country and are responsible for high unemployment. While it’s unlikely the African Basic Movement party will win big in next year’s general elections, its emergence is a sign, analysts say, that the global wave of nationalist, populist politics has come to the Rainbow Nation.

Party leader Thembelani Ngubane says his party, which he started last year, has gained tens of thousands of members and signatories to its petition to deport all foreigners by year’s end. Those numbers could not be verified.

The party recently registered to compete in next year’s elections, but critics question whether its platform adheres to South Africa’s progressive, inclusive constitution, and whether the party’s position leans dangerously towards hate speech, which is illegal in South Africa.

“We should get rid of all foreigners who are here, they are taking South Africa’s jobs,” Ngubane told VOA. “They sleep with our sisters, they give them children, they get married to them, so that they get South African citizenship. When they get that, they abandon them…. So South Africa is like chaos. And they are criminals, we can’t catch them, they have no fingerprints, because they are from other countries.”

Dangerous direction

About two million foreign nationals live in South Africa, most from neighboring countries such as Zimbabwe, according to the most recent census. However, the actual number, which includes undocumented residents, is thought to be higher.

This rise in xenophobic politics is extremely worrying, says Sharon Ekambaram, who heads the refugee and migrant rights program for Lawyers for Human Rights. She warns it could spur yet another outburst of xenophobic violence, given that South Africa periodically sees…

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