A ‘radically different’ attitude towards work
INTERNATIONAL Organisation for Migrants (IOM) spokesperson Ntokozo Mahlangu said most foreigners come to South Africa with hopes of finding work. “It’s really quite sad to see them leaving their families, leaving everything they had and coming to this. The dream is shattered.”
Mahlangu said while trying to piece their lives together, the difficult part for some migrants is facing the simmering resentment from some South Africans.
“Some South Africans feel that these African migrants are coming in and taking away jobs from them.”
In April 2015, a wave of attacks targeting migrants resulted in seven deaths, with thousands of people fleeing the country.
According to Xenowatch, a platform to monitor xenophobia launched by the African Centre for Migration and Society based at the University of Wits, the attacks on foreign-owned shops are the third most common form. The platform has mapped attacks on foreigners, and it has counted 227 acts of looting — the third most prevalent form of attack after damage to property (254 incidents) and assault (240 incidents). The mapping includes attacks from 1994 to May 2018.
In May, the North Region Business Association ordered foreign shopkeepers out of townships of Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu in the north of Durban, but the threat was quashed after police kept foreign shopowners safe.
According to a 2017 report by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), most foreign nationals seeking a better life in South Africa make it through sheer hard work and sacrifice towards an improved life that had been denied back in their own countries.
Titled “South Africa’s Immigrants – Building a New Economy”, IRR re- searcher Rian Malan said his research showed how most migrants succeed in South Africa, sometimes through good business acumen and ability to start from scratch and move up.
The report said that political repression or wars, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe, push the citizens to South Africa, whose relatively strong economy is attractive to them.
Malan used three case studies of Somalis taking over the spaza shop business in townships, Zimbabweans waiting tables and managing restaurants in Johannesburg and the mushrooming of trading in the Johannesburg CBD started by Ethiopians at a time when municipal authorities neglected the inner city.
The immigrants’ strong networks ensured that their fellow countrymen accessed opportunities as well when they arrive in the country. They also have to start from the bottom, and sometimes work for their already successful countrymen for just meals “until they had paid the debt” and then start earning to work their way up, the report showed.
“The stories raise fundamental questions about the truth of these beliefs [on immigrants]. All are black, using the broad definition favoured by Pan-Africanists. As such, they must face exactly the same forms of discrimination as black South Africans, and many additional obstacles besides rampant xenophobia, such as a banking industry that is unwilling to open accounts for them and a government that denies them all manner of benefits available to black South Africans ... including state subsidies for black entrepreneurs and participation in preferential procurement schemes that require formal sector businesses to place a portion of their orders with black suppliers,” said the report.
“And yet, foreigners make it here. Some of the stories told here might convey the misleading impression that all migrants are pulling R20 000 a month as waiters in posh restaurants or buying inner-city buildings with suitcases full of cash. These are exceptional cases ...”
In the report, Malan says that the immigrants achieve their goals in a foreign country such as South Africa as they come with a “radically different” attitude towards work, born out of desperation.
Malan added that a survey conducted in 2008 showed that 80% of South Africa’s unemployed were also desperate for work and willing to start for very little, provided there was some prospect of advancement in the long run.
“But 62% said this got them nowhere, because there were simply no jobs available. Foreigners dispute this claim, contending that there are all sorts of opportunities here for those willing to start at the bottom or create work for themselves.” — WWR.