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Immigrant Life In South Africa Marred With Xenophobic Attacks

DissentingVoices lived in South Africa as an immigrant and witnessed xenophobic attacks.

Immigrants in South Africa often face xenophobic attacks from locals.


Life As An Immigrant In South Africa

South Africa which has a population of approximately 50 million people, has become home to millions of immigrants who are running away from their countries in search of greener pastures. The problem however is xenophobic attacks that many immigrants are subjected to each year.

Life for millions of immigrants in South Africa is very tough. Immigrants get called names such as "kwere kwere" translated to mean "foreigner" in a degrading way. Many immigrants only get to realise that the grass is not greener in South Africa as they struggle to find employment, and life is very expensive. The rentals and transport are too expensive for someone with no savings or proper job. Another thing, as an immigrant you can't go back home if you have no money, that's why most immigrants regardless of the xenophobic attacks choose to stay hoping that one day things will get better.

When I got to South Africa as an immigrant, my first job was working as a maid to an Indian family. They were a rich family who owned several businesses, and lived in affluent golf estate known as Ebotse Golf Club. It's situated East of Johannesburg, and some of the rich people stay there.

This is when I experienced xenophobia for the first time in my life. I was overworked. The house I was working in was a two storey house with over 15 rooms which needed to be cleaned everyday even though only two bedrooms, a kitchen and lounge were being used by the family. I was instructed to kneel and mop the floor, no broom was allowed. This was unfair, how can one person clean such a big house while kneeling all the way? But those were rules, and they didn't care.

As an immigrant that's when I realized that I had no rights, I was underpaid R2000 per month for doing all the cleaning, ironing and washing by hands. I used to think rich people use dishwashers and washing machines for most of their clothes except for those that need hand washing. I guess I was wrong. You must know this was a stay in position, and i hardly got breaks throughout the day. I would wake up at 5am and start work 06:00am till 10pm or at times 11pm depending with the mood of the bosses. Sometimes they would shout at me and say they were going to fire me anytime they want. After all I was just an immigrant, and there was nothing I could do about.

For immigrants who stay in the highly populated areas known as townships or locations, they face xenophobia everyday. If they own small businesses, they get attacked and their businesses looted by locals. Some who are greatly resented will be caught, necklaced with tyres and set alight. It has happened so many times.

A new group has emerged which calls itself "Put South Africans First". They target all companies employing immigrants and demand that they be removed so that South African nationals can get jobs there. If you're an immigrant in South Africa, you have to be careful how you talk in case you might offend the locals. You have to be careful about sharing your own opinions in case they will remind you that you are an immigrant and free to leave their country if you're not happy with how they do things.

I hope that one day, South African citizens will learn to embrace immigrants who are running away from civil wars, hunger and poverty in their countries with open arms. I hope that xenophobia will cease to exist in their vocabulary and immigrants will be treated as normal human beings like anybody else.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.