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The BBC's Greg Barrow:
"James is taking the first steps on a long road to recovery"
 real 56k

Monday, 28 August, 2000, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
South Africa's new racism
James Diop, a Sudanese refugee, is assisted by a nurse following a racist attack
James Diop, a Sudanese refugee, is assisted by a nurse following a racist attack
By Greg Barrow in Johannesburg

This week, South Africans will be gathering to discuss the extent to which racism and xenophobia continues to divide their society .

It is more than six years since the end of apartheid, but racist attitudes remain.

I don't feel like I'm in a peaceful country. I'm totally disappointed and I want to leave

James Diop, Sudanese victim of racist attacks

Perhaps more alarmingly, the years since the birth of South Africa's multi-racial democracy have seen a dramatic rise in xenophobia towards black African immigrants.

James Diop, a Sudanese refugee in South Africa, is one such victim.

Under the gentle care and attention of an orthopaedic nurse, James is taking the first steps on a long road to recovery.

He has a dislocated shoulder and his neck is in a brace. The injuries were sustained after being thrown from a moving train by a gang of thugs.

His crime was to look different in a country where hostility towards black immigrants is growing.

James has now been attacked five times since fleeing to South Africa from his war torn home in southern Sudan.

"I face so many problems here in South Africa," he says.

"It's almost as if I'm back in southern Sudan again where there is civil war."

"I don't feel like I'm in a peaceful country. I'm totally disappointed and I want to leave."

On the streets of South Africa, black on black xenophobia is on the rise.

Old friends

Joyce Tlou: Alarmed that hostility is focussed on black African immigrants and refugees
Joyce Tlou: Alarmed that hostility is focussed on black African immigrants and refugees
Just as the country is laying the ghost of apartheid to rest, physical and verbal abuse of black Africans - many of them from countries which assisted South Africa in its struggle against white rule - is increasing.

It is something that alarms people like Joyce Tlou of the National Consortium on Refugee Affairs.

"It is ironic that the hostility is focussed on black Africans who more than anybody else assisted South Africa more," Ms Tlou says.

"Also, South Africa being part of the African continent, there is this brotherly talk. 'We are brothers and sisters, but that doesn't happen.'"

The market place

The accents of the market traders running fruit and vegetable stalls in the Johannesburg suburb of Yeoville are foreign.

Nigerians rub shoulders with Kenyans, Mozambicans and Zimbabweans.

Many black African immigrants come from countries which were actively anti-apartheid
Many black African immigrants come from countries which were actively anti-apartheid
It is a real melting pot, and black South Africans are in the minority.

Some even mourn the days when these suburbs used to be white.

"You see no more whites here," laments one bystander.

"It's only blacks because of this crime. Crime is too much now, too much."

Unemployment

Competition for jobs and resources is behind much of the xenophobia.

However, there is also a perception that African immigrants are responsible for crime.

"They are killing people, they are doing things," says another bystander.

"Even the banks, they rob the banks. We can't do anything now, because now the foreigners, really, really, they are making corruption in South Africa."


A South African view: "They rob banks"
"Even South Africa is finished now, because they want to spoil this country, and after that they are going."

It is the history of black South Africans' struggle for freedom that has moulded their views.

Under apartheid, blacks were almost non-people.

Democracy gave them a stake in society for the very first time.

Now, many are fiercely protective of these hard-won rights and unwilling to share them with foreigners.

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See also:

24 Aug 00 | Africa
Racism 'pervasive' in SA media
26 Jan 00 | Africa
South Africa bans discrimination
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