Former President Nelson Mandela supported the idea of ibuntu, the principle that strangers are always welcome in the Republic of South Africa. But immigrant violence has stalked certain of the nation's streets—poor against poor—resulting in at least 24 dead and many injured.
Despite a 5 percent growth in the economy and a commodities boom, frustrated citizens have unleashed their anger against foreigners. The increasing wealth of South Africa has not trickled down to those now trapped in poverty. Governments never seem to deliver enough jobs, housing and schools. Such is the byproduct of deficient human administrations.
The Bible teaches that poverty will finally be abolished during Christ's coming millennial reign. But until that time it declares in the Old Testament, "The poor will never cease from the land," and in the New Testament, "For the poor you have with you always" (Deuteronomy 15:11; John 12:8).
As Time magazine reported, "Xenophobia can be as much about poverty as skin color. The grim tide of killing, raping, burning and hacking that has torn through the northeastern province of Gauteng is centered on shanty towns such as Alexandra and Kya Sand that form a ring of destitution around [South] Africa's commercial capital [Johannesburg]" (June 2, 2008).
It is interesting to note that "the hot spots of anti-immigrant brutality today were the furnaces of anti-apartheid rebellion two decades ago" (ibid.).
A Wall Street Journal editorial sums up what may lie in the relatively near future. "In its Pan-African enthusiasm the government has now signed a protocol allowing free movement of people within the 15-nation Southern African Development Community. When this comes into effect shortly, many million more Mozambicans and Congolese could well attempt to move to South Africa. Apostles of African unity like Mr. [Thabo] Mbeki [present president] cannot see why Africa should not follow the example of the European Union. In effect the street mobs are demanding the opposite. Future collisions can hardly be ruled out" (May 27, 2008, emphasis added).