PROACTIVE STEPS NEEDED TO QUELL XENOPHOBIA: ZILLE

The Sowetan, 23 May 2008

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Government needs to take proactive steps to address the root cause of the xenophobic violence, DA leader Helen Zille said on Friday. Unless this was done, "what we are experiencing may be less an aberration than a taste of things to come", she said in her weekly newsletter on the Democratic Allianceís website. "But to do this, it [government] must admit where it has failed and craft a way forward." The only way forward was to break the cycle of dependency on a state that did not have the capacity to deliver, she said. This was the crux of the DAís vision of an open, opportunity society which maximised opportunity, self reliance and personal responsibility rather than creating permanent dependence. In such an environment, immigrants with skills and initiative were not a threat, but an asset. The economy was not a zero-sum game of "us" against "them", but an arena in which all could thrive to the mutual benefit of others, Zille said. The ANC could not face the fact that the stateís failure to stem the tide of illegal immigration and the almost total incapacity to process the wave of refugee applications was the short term catalyst for the violence. "The ANC elite will never face the fact that poverty stricken South Africans bear the brunt for governmentís policy failures," she said. Nor could the ANC acknowledge what was obvious to everyone else: That xenophobia was also driven by growing impoverishment and the perception that every foreignerís opportunity came at the expense of a South Africanís. This was merely a reflection of the ANCís zero-sum approach to development, which was not aimed at growing the number of opportunities available for all, but manipulating access to existing opportunities for the benefit of the politically-connected few. This approach to economic development established the conditions for ongoing conflict about access to the limited opportunities and resources available, and set up entrepreneurial foreign nationals as scapegoats, Zille said.