The experiment indicated a causal relationship between the exposure to negative content and negative judgment about this group and their presence in the country
By Bongani Siziba
Nomsa Tshuma a Zimbabwean economic refugee received a disturbing call on the morning of April 7 2022. On the other hand of the line was his brother in-law, who told her that Elvis Nyathi her husband was beaten and burnt to death the previous night.
Tshuma promptly headed to police station, without knowing passing through the spot where her husband had been burnt to death the previous night just a street away from their house. A group of men had taken him away beat him and burnt him alive, because he did not have a passport and alleged criminal.
His friend Prince counted himself lucky to escape unscathed, unlike his friend Nyathi.
The violent mobs who killed Elvis were made up of black South Africans who were angry at the economic and living conditions they are experiencing. Poverty and inequality, chronically high unemployment, high crime rates, and poor public services.
They directed this anger at an African foreigner who they believe was taking jobs and livelihoods away from them. They also blamed him and others for the high levels of crime and, as Elvis Nyathi ‘s brutal experience demonstrates, the demonization of foreigners, in particular other Africans and Asians, now permeates beyond disillusioned adults to their children.
The story of Elvis not only exposed the hatred by locals on African foreigners but also how the media report on xenophobic issues. Research shows that some media house content might have over the years contributed to xenophobic attitudes.
The media content findings show a very strong stereotyping and bias against African immigrants which is enough to feed to the xenophobia attitude. Instead of helping audiences to better appreciate the issues at hand, the media exacerbated the conflicts through sensational reporting.
As expected the media is to uphold press freedom and democracy and are therefore required to provide balanced and accurate reporting, representing the diverse views of the people and the government, in order to allow people to make informed decisions.
In South Africa, migration is a theme of great relevance due to a substantial increase in the flow of migrants over the last years, as well as the acts of extreme violence toward this group. And the media have been criticised on the coverage of migrants influences locals perception of migrants.
Furthermore, exposure to news about migration is the primary variable that explains why people consider this phenomenon one of the main problems affecting the country, confirming the agenda-setting theory by the South African media.
The experiment also indicated a causal relationship between the exposure to negative content and negative judgment about this group and their presence in the country.
In 2015, when the news of a Mozambican national Emmanuel Sithole filled the local and international news, who was brutally murdered in Alexander in a Xenophobic attack.
Sithole was making a living by selling cigarettes and snacks on the pavement – he was killed by four locals like a dog.
His death like many others who have died during Xenophobic attacks has been reported as Africans who are in South Africa to take what belongs to the locals, the media doesn’t report on the criminal aspects but justifies the anger of the locals and why the crime was committed. In the news the killers are always portrayed as people who are fighting inequality and what belongs to them.
In March 2019, the South African government launched its National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (NAP).
Among the actions the NAP identifies to be taken to combat xenophobia, are creating mechanisms to ensure foreigners receive services they are entitled to, facilitating their integration, and embracing a humane and dignified approach to managing migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.
However, as the incidents documented in this report show, implementation of the NAP should include steps that could quickly and effectively improve accountability for perpetrators of abuse motivated by xenophobia and justice for its victims.
Potential measures include creating a dedicated portal or contact for non-South African nationals to report xenophobic incidents and standardizing how instances of xenophobia are recorded and responded to across provinces, stations, and community policing structures.
This report documents some of the large scale and more individual experiences of xenophobia, discrimination, and barriers experienced by non-nationals in the year following the launch of the NAP, as well as the, at best, anaemic response by the government.
As the rest of the continent continue to find hope for better prospects in South Africa so are new prospects of tensions, caused by resentment on the part of South Africans, who see their fellow Africans as invaders taking their jobs and livelihoods, that continues to over into conflicts.
Mxolisi Ncube an investigative journalist in Johannesburg said the media is not doing enough to report on foreigners without bias.
“The media has played to the hands of Xenophobes , because the terminology aliens that they use to describe non South Africans, shows that they have torched the xenophobic sentiments” He said.
Furthermore, Ncube noted that when a crime is committed the media has been quick to amplify the voices of those who without evidence claim that the perpetrators are of foreign origin without verification first.
“The Krugerdrop incident is a clear indication that the media is biased, the media was quick to claim that the perpetrators were foreigners before the DNA results were out.
Another incident was the Rosettenville cash heist that happened in March 2022, where the minister of Police Bheki Cele was quick to identify all the suspects as Zimbabwean nationals without any verification.
According to a research done by https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2021/country-chapters/south-africa, government and law enforcement officials throughout the country has not only largely failed to ensure justice for xenophobic violence, but also operated in discriminatory and abusive ways against non-nationals. Some officials exacerbated xenophobia through inciteful rhetoric, while the South African Police Service and Metro Police used counterfeit goods raids as a cover to target foreign-owned shops and businesses.
During the raids, police officers beat foreign shop owners and fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them. Ransacking and destroying their shops. Victims in the Johannesburg Central Business District and Diepsloot alleged that the police then resold confiscated goods back to them.
During 2020, South Africa continued to experience incidents of xenophobic violence and discrimination against non-nationals despite the government’s launch of the National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (NAP) in 2019.
Law enforcement officials often responded with indifference or provided inadequate remedies to xenophobic attacks. Refugees and asylum seekers faced barriers to protection.
In coordination with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), police conducted abusive “documentation raids” in areas where many non nationals reside, including by entering foreigners’ homes to verify documents and legal status while administering beatings.
While the 2019 National Action Plan to combat xenophobia, racism, and discrimination marked an important step toward recognising and addressing these abuses, it has not ensured accountability for xenophobic crimes.
In coordination with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), police conducted abusive “documentation raids” in areas where many non-nationals reside, including by entering foreigners’ homes to verify documents and legal status while administering beatings.
which have, in the analysis, exacerbated tensions, violence, and clashes betwee
The emergence of social media has also revolutionized the production and consumption of information, offering opportunities that were never imagined in the past centuries. A simple account in any of the social media sites allows one to produce and disseminate information timeously with little or no regulation at a low cost.
While this development can be celebrated as an alternative source of information to that of private and public media houses which had enjoyed an unparalleled monopoly on the production and consumption of information, it has brought with it a burden of undesired consequences.
With its ability to shape public discourse, social media has not only led to the dismantling of autocratic regimes that was witnessed in the Arab Springs or the so-called Twitter Revolutions, but also to well-coordinated ethnic hate crimes and xenophobic attitudes premised on nationalism or nativism
Social media acts as a catalyst in bringing together cognitive, environmental, and personal factors to produce xenophobic attitudes and behaviour.
In their 2020 report https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/07/south-africa-un-experts-condemn-xenophobic-violence-and-racial the UN experts condemned reports of escalating violence against foreign nationals in South Africa and called for accountability against xenophobia, racism and hate speech that were harming migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and even citizens perceived as foreign throughout the country.
The reports indicates that xenophobic violence and discrimination have increased, including under the banner of “Operation Dudula”, originally a social media campaign that has become an umbrella for mobilisation of violent protests, vigilante violence, arson targeting migrant-owned homes and businesses, and even the murder of foreign nationals.
Moreover, media houses have also found themselves in the trap of social media, where they now report on news without verification.
Gideon Chitanga , a research Associate at The African centre for the study of the United stated university of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said the media is playing an important role in reporting on migrants stories, but however there are not highlighting the problems and contribution of foreign nationals in South Africa.
“The major stories by the media has been on the negative experiences of migrants , while it is important to highlight these problems, the media falls short in reporting on the positives in a dynamic way that embraces the positive impact, and the positive changes that migrants have bought in South Africa,” Chitanga Said.
“This is a broad aspect that covers the economic the social business benefits. Nationals from other countries are not only victims some of them make a choice to live in the country and others are involved in diverse activities ,business activities from formal, informal and small sectors, some are professionals and others students, all of them have contributed to the country’s economy one way or the other , and this is another aspect the media has failed to highlight”. He added.
According to Danso and McDonald (2001, 116), the mass media coverage of immigration has been anti-immigrant, unanalytical, negative, and uncritical, and has reproduced problematic statistics and assumptions about cross-border migration in the region.
These authors further argue that media houses have left readers with little more than incriminating innuendos and sensational accounts of what migrants were alleged to have done.
The overview clearly points to the reality that the print media reports have produced anecdotal, one-sided stories, which can be validated by testing the perceptions of civil society groups, community activists, and general citizen.
government ocials who are directly or indirectly implicated in such acts.
Early this year an anti-foreigner group by the name of Operation Dudula camped at Kalafong Hospital in Tswane preventing foreigners from entering the hospital and getting treatment, the media reported more on why the group was protesting against the treatment of foreign nationals but not on the human rights abuse and the rights set out by the South African constitution https://www.gov.za/documents/constitution/chapter-2-bill-rights that provides for all people within the South Africa, regardless of their nationality or legal status. This fact has been confirmed by South African courts the constitution states that:
Everyone has the right to have access to health care services and
None may be refused emergency medical treatment.
Foreigners are scapegoated and blamed for economic insecurity, crimes, and government failures to deliver services and have been targets of nationwide protests and shutdowns characterized by mob violence, looting, and torching of their businesses.
In early September 2019, mobs wielding weapons and chanting anti-foreigner slogans attacked and forcibly displaced non-nationals, destroying thousands of their business and homes.
None of those interviewed has yet to recover financially or achieve justice. Although the government stated that 10 of the 12 killed in the violence were South Africans, Human Rights Watch has found that at least 18 foreigners were killed during the violence.
South African government and law enforcement authorities have repeatedly claimed that these waves of violence were purely criminal and not motivated by xenophobia.
The review article by Global Media Journal https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/09/17/south-africa-widespread-xenophobic-violence revealed that South Africa media continue to receive critism for their penchant in using offensive and sometimes pejorative language to describe foreign nationals, especially African immigrants during Xenophobia incidents. For instance the coverage of some nationals using generalised stereotypes portray of all Nigerians as drug dealers and fraudsters.
One Newspaper headlines in ( IOL 26 May 2017 ) the mayor singles out Nigerians as drug dealers and pimps, this therefore implies that all Nigerians in South Africa are drug dealers.
Many people don’t read the full story but just headlines and this may lead to Xenophobic sentiments or attacks with accusations of being drug dealers.
Furthermore, the Article says this view means the media did set an agenda and framing Nigerians as drug dealers and pimps. As a result the society will follow the same trend.
Globally, migration is on the increase, and South Africa is no exception to this phenomenom. Statistics estimates that there are more that 2 million immigrants in South Africa and protecting and promoting their rights is integral to the right to equality and human dignity as recognised in South African law.
This reporting was made possible by internews
Siziba is a Photo-Journalist based in Johannesburg. This report was made possible by Internews
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