Xenophobia in South Africa: Historical Legacies of Exclusion and Violence

May we learn to embrace peace and unity!

Imperial & Global Forum

xenophobia is not a crime

Emily Bridger
History Department, University of Exeter

Over the past several weeks, a new wave of xenophobic violence has swept across South Africa, beginning in Durban and quickly spreading to Johannesburg and its surrounding townships. The targets are makwerekweres, a derogatory term used for foreigners, in reference to the “babble” they speak. They are Zimbabweans, Mozambicans, Nigerians, Somalis, Bangladeshis and other foreign nationals. Initial violence in Durban was sparked by the remarks of Goodwill Zwelithini, the king of South Africa’s largest ethnic group, the Zulus, who reportedly called on foreigners to “pack their bags and go back to their countries.”

In the following weeks, the violence claimed the lives of seven people and turned thousands more into refugees. Media images depicted scenes of terror, displacement and hatred: foreign-owned shops looted and ransacked; tent cities hastily assembled for refugees; foreigners boarding buses back to their home countries; and even the…

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malcom-xToday, February 21, 2017 marks the 52nd anniversary of the assassination of one of the most iconic leaders of the 20th century, Malcolm X El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.


Malcolm was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1925. His father was killed in a mysterious train accident and his mother was committed to a mental institution. Without a rosy background, he was convicted of multiple crimes, and sentenced by a Massachusetts court to ten years in prison. There he met a long-serving ex-thief who introduced him to the prison’s uncommonly well-stocked library, which became his “university.” It was there that his intellectual odyssey began. He read everything, from philosophy, history, and fiction to the words (all of them, in alphabetical order) in the Merriam-Webster College Dictionary. He also encountered the sacred texts of Christianity and Islam, and, in 1948, was converted to the faith of the Nation of Islam, the Black Muslims. Continue reading



Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S, 113 (1973) is the historic Supreme Court decision overturning a Texas interpretation of abortion law and making abortion legal in the United States. The Roe v. Wade decision held that a woman, with her doctor, could choose abortion in earlier months of pregnancy without legal restriction, and with restrictions in later months, based on the right to privacy.

It was decided simultaneously with a companion case, Doe v. Bolton. The Court ruled 7–2 that a right to privacy under the Due process Clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion, but that this right must be balanced against the state’s interests in regulating abortions: protecting women’s health and protecting the potentiality of human life.

What led to this decision? Continue reading