Xenophobia Source: Google Images

“It’s getting very silly now. South African drivers are paying the price for the criminal behaviour of others, as protests against xenophobia halt motorists.”

Things are getting extremely tit-for-tat between South Africa and the rest of the continent, in response to a spate of xenophobia that’s spread across Gauteng. In the past 48 hours, we’ve seen Shoprite stores raided in Nigeria, and Pick n Pay shops looted in Zambia. In fact, the latter went one further – Zambian radio stations decided to ban all music from SA “for the foreseeable future”.

South African drivers held-up at border points

An eye-for-an-eye is in full swing, and it seems that there will be no relief any time soon. Some South African drivers have encountered difficulties in crossing the borders to neighbouring countries, with major incidents flaring up in Mozambique and Zambia.

Burning tyres and barricades were set-up on a road connecting SA to Mozambique. It is believed that the obstructions were caused by those protesting against xenophobia in South Africa. Truckers carrying deliveries were targeted specifically by the communities, who had to be dispersed by police.

There were similar problems reported at checkpoints in Botswana and Zambia, too. There are allegations that some truck drivers were attacked physically by the crowds, but there is nothing to substantiate these claims. Nonetheless, it’s an environment which remains hostile for cross-country commuters.

Diplomatic incidents and xenophobia protests

Tensions haven’t exactly calmed since Sunday. The attacks on foreign-owned businesses in Gauteng have sparked a tidal wave of reactions, with Nigeria in particular taking a firm stance against South Africa. As well as boycotting the current World Economic Forum event in Cape Town, the High Commissioner to Mzansi has been recalled.

Frustrations remain high, as SA harbours the status of “pariah” in the eyes of its bordering nations. Time and diplomatic intervention should heal these wounds, but for now, the situation is a complicated one. Perhaps we should make an inquiry to Antarctica, and see if our neighbours to the south still have time for us instead…