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A street on the outskirts of Johannesburg after xenophobic riots targeted foreign-owned shops and businesses. A street on the outskirts of Johannesburg after riots targeted foreign-owned shops and businesses, Sept. 2, 2019 (AP photo).

South Africa’s Xenophobic Turn Against Other Africans Is a National Failure

Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019

When I landed in Johannesburg early last week, the newspapers that greeted me all carried alarming, front-page spreads about a fresh spree of violence against foreigners in South Africa’s biggest cities. There were shocking photos of foreign-owned shops that had been looted, and accounts of how non-South Africans were accosted and beaten. To capture it all, the bold headline of one tabloid simply screamed, “Anarchy.”

News like this, of course, can never be welcome, but the timing of this wave of xenophobic violence seemed particularly awful for a country that is badly struggling both economically and politically. This was all happening just as two major global gatherings were kicking off in South Africa: the World Economic Forum and an inaugural festival of ideas called Africa in the World. ...

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