[Briefing for UPM] Lucien van der Walt, “One Year after the 2015 Grahamstown Riots against Foreign Traders: Attacks Hurt Working Class and Poor, Only Capitalists and Politicians Benefit”
December 15, 2016 Leave a comment
One Year after the 2015 Grahamstown Riots against Foreign Traders: Attacks Hurt Working Class and Poor, Only Capitalists and Politicians Benefit
Lucien van der Walt
*Text commissioned by Unemployed People’s Movement, Grahamstown, October 2015.
*Edited version: November 2016.
A year ago, starting 20 October 2015, around 75 small shops were looted, some burned down, in the eastern townships and downtown area of the small Eastern Cape university town of Grahamstown/ iRhini, South Africa. The attacks targeted Asian and African immigrants, many of them Muslim, and displaced 500 people. These riots were largely ignored by the media.
The text below is a slightly revised revision of a briefing I was asked to write at the time for the local Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM). The UPM played a heroic role in opposing the attacks and assisting the displaced. The text’s general points remain relevant to the working class’s fight against prejudice and racism. And the riots of 2015 should not be forgotten.
The heroic struggles for justice being waged today by workers, students and neighbourhoods across the country show the possibility of a better future, based on justice and freedom.
But casting a deep shadow over these struggles, and helping block a better future, are terrible, ongoing incidents like anti-immigrant / anti-foreigner attacks. They show how far we have to go, before we can free ourselves from the darkness of oppression.
The 2015 riots in Grahamstown were directed against foreign nationals, accused in hateful rumours of murdering local people to steal their body parts for ritual purposes. From such sparks sprang the wildfires of violence and terror. Within days over 500 people were displaced or in hiding.
So what is the solution? A fire needs fuel to burn; without fuel, sparks sputter away, die out. So what was the fuel that the sparks ignited? To fix a problem, we must know its cause.
IS IT “XENOPHOBIA”?
Anti-immigrant views and violence are common in South Africa.
The most common explanation is provided by the media. And it is wrong. This explanation describes anti-immigrant ideas and attacks as “xenophobia.” Read more of this post