The effects of the 2008 xenophobic violence on female African (foreign) nationals in South Africa and possible solutions : a case study of female students at UKZN.
Xenophobia in South Africa is a social-political ill. Despite the huge xenophobic attack that took place in May 2008 leaving so many people homeless, wounded and dead, xenophobia still continues to occur in several ways all over South Africa. Its roots can be traced back to the period of apartheid when black South Africans suffered various types of racial discrimination and other forms of subjugation from the hands of their white compatriots, who form a tiny minority of the country‘s population. It would appear that having forced their way out of the period of apartheid, Black South Africans have created a brutal culture of hostility towards 'foreigners' from the rest of Africa. In their search for higher education, students from the rest of the continent have been attracted to South Africa by its excellent social infrastructure and the relative buoyancy of its economy. These migrant students are faced with various challenges in their daily activities both on and off campus. The most salient of this would seem to be their experience of xenophobia. A case in point is the female African students at UKZN. This is in addition to the basic fact that women are, almost by definition, a vulnerable group. The violence that many women experience is caused by numerous identities such as race, class, sexual orientation, HIV status, disability and other markers of difference. These markers not only increase female vulnerability but they also limit their access to legal redress and health and psychosocial services. This phenomenon often gives men an advantage over women in society. Such forms of discrimination need to be investigated and interrogated within the context of xenophobia. Though there has not been any further major attack in the aftermath of the 2008 xenophobic violence, the sporadic experiences amongst, for example, foreign female African students at UKZN, if ignored, may gradually lead to a violent outbreak. This study attempts to capture and critically analyse the understanding of these students on the subject of xenophobia, their experiences and the probable effects xenophobia has, so far, had on their stay in South Africa. The study also seeks to understand how these students respond to the attacks and if they are aware of policies made by the government or university authorities to assist them. Based on the interviews, the study recommends how to eradicate xenophobia, given that existing policies seem to be working only in presumption. It further elaborates on the gender dynamics of xenophobia and concludes on the feelings of xenophilia (experience of love by foreigners from the local South Africans) by the students despite the existence of xenophobia in South Africa.