No place like home: Xenophobia in South Africa


Al Jazeera made an in-depth analysis/report on the roots, the ravishes and the routing pain surrounding Xenophobia in South Africa.

the Report brings together:







Xenophobia in South Africa | Chapter 1

In a haze of violence in late January, an angry mob approached a convenience store belonging to Abdikadir Ibrahim Danicha. They pried open its iron gates and looted everything inside. Even the large display refrigerators were carried away.

Danicha’s life was upended.

“South African people don’t like us,” Danicha, a 29-year-old Somali national, told Al Jazeera, while sitting on his bed in a small room he shared with three others in Mayfair, a suburb popular with foreign nationals in Johannesburg.

The violent outburst that led to the looting of

Danicha’s store began in Snake Park, in the

western reaches of Soweto, when 14-year-old

Siphiwe Mahori was allegedly killed by another Somali shop owner, Alodixashi Sheik Yusuf.

Mahori, a South African, was allegedly a part of a group of people who attempted to rob Yusuf’s store on January 19. His death sparked a week of mob justice, which appeared to be inflamed by xenophobia.

Scores of people were injured and hundreds of stores were looted. As the violence spread to nearby Kagiso, a South African baby was trampled to death.

For the foreign nationals affected by the violence, the actions of the mob were inexplicable.

“I don’t even have clothes … I lost all my things,” said Masrat Eliso an Ethiopian national, four days after his shop in Protea Glen, a suburb of Soweto, was looted.

Mofolo Central, Soweto


I don’t have money. I don’t have anything and I’m scared for my life”


Calm was eventually restored and most foreign-owned stores reopened. Shelves were restocked and customers returned, poking their arms through the closed metal gates of the stores to buy a loaf of bread. Groupsof children clamoured to buy lollipops, while tired looking men eyed the fridges for energy drinks.

It appeared to be business as usual, but to the foreign nationals who returned to their stores in Soweto, there was a shared fear that they may soon be the subject of another attack.

Danicha returned to his shop in Mofolo, another suburb of Soweto, three weeks after the violence subsided.

“I don’t feel safe,” he said in early March, outside his partially restocked shop.

He is one of a few hundred thousand Somali refugees in South Africa who have found some measure of success in operating small stores in townships around the country. He is also one among thousands of foreign nationals here who report multiple incidents of persecution.

But Danicha’s life in South Africa has been filled with hardship. And the scars, which run across the entire left side of his body, act as a stark reminder.

 In June 2014, he and a friend were running a small store in the Johannesburg suburb of Denver, selling groceries and basic cosmetics when their store was set upon by an angry mob.


“The first day, a group of people came to the shop. They wanted to loot us. We closed the doors but then they started stoning us,” he said. “Then, on the second day, they just came and threw a petrol bomb at the shop.


I was inside the shop.”


Danicha was one of four people who sustained severe burns in Denver on that day.

I came to South Africa in 2012 and I thought life would be easy.


Abdikadir Ibrahim Danicha

 “Everywhere, everywhere I am burned,” he said. “I was in hospital for three months.”

After being treated at the Charlotte Maxeke public hospital, Danicha was then forced to rely on the Somali community in Johannesburg for assistance.

 “A brother of mine helped me out by giving me a share in a shop in Soweto.”

Two months later, another mob attacked his store.

“Unless I have the capital to start another shop, I don’t know what I can do.”

Estimates suggest that more than 50,000 Somalis have fled to South Africa since their home country erupted into civil war in 1991.

Many of them have settled in townships across the country, operating small businesses among the poorest South Africans.

While the store in Mofolo has reopened, and Danicha helps his co-owners periodically, he has not been able to contribute to the capital needed to get the store sufficiently restocked.

“It is very difficult to start again and again”


From Soweto and Kagiso the violence in January spread to Sebokeng in the Vaal delta, Eden Park in Ekurhuleni and Alexandra, in northern Johannesburg.

As researchers begin to unpack the stories of yet another bout of violence against foreign nationals in urban South Africa, many of the victims are beginning to feel that the pain caused was not just the loss of goods, earnings and trading days.

“We came to South Africa because we needed to save our lives,” Mohamed Rashad, an Ethiopian national from the Oromo community says. He runs a store in Snake Park and is angered by the lack of justice in cases involving foreign nationals.

“The law is forgetting us so soon we will also forget the law,” he warned.

Back at the store in Mofolo, Danicha watches as his co-owners serve customers through a gate. He is not

sure what the future holds for him.

 “At first I had a plan but the plan has been destroyed two times now,” he said.

With Somalia still reeling from conflict, he has nowhere else to go.

Despite the ongoing violence, South Africa is home.



Ismail Adam Hassen


Muhammed Hukun Galle Hassan

I came from Somalia in 2009. And the South African government is good, they let us work for ourselves. I say the government thank you very much and I was working myself and I was looking my food and to trade.

Some people come to South Africa by plane. Others come with taxis and busses.  But I took a very long route to South Africa.  I came to South Africa in 2010 and it took me three months to get here.


Bangladesh: Nasser Abu

Somalia: Salat Abdullahi

We can be attacked anytime here in the shop.

It is like an ambush attack. We are not safe here.


We can’t even say that we will sleep peacefully tonight because we don’t know what we will face tomorrow.

I am in South Africa as an asylum seeker.

You see, in my country, Bangladesh, there are political problems. We are suffering. So we’ve come here honestly. We’re not robbing anybody. We are not doing any crime. We just come here  to do business. And we hope to help South African people also.

  Find the rest of this riveting report here:



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