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Inequality and Political Identity in South Africa

Hisham Aidi | December 31, 2021

Xenophobic violence against minorities and non-nationals has erupted periodically in different parts of Africa: against Somalis in Kenya, Nigerians in Ghana, Chadians in Libya, and Asians in South Africa. Scholars have offered various explanations for these outbursts of violence, focusing on inequality or how simultaneous market reforms and democratization can unleash resentment against “market- dominant minorities.” Others see the violence as linked to elections, noting how political candidates will engage in ethnic-baiting and scapegoating when media and political institutions are weak. Other analysts point to legal institutions and discursive formations created by colonialism but have persisted into the post-colonial state. This paper will use these different approaches (political economy, electoral and post-colonial) to examine the civil unrest that occurred in South Africa in July 2021.