An open letter to outraged, middle-class South Africans


Abu O’Well received this letter from a friend in Alexandra: 

Dear #NoToXenophobia people,

Shaken up, aren’t you? You saw some knobkerries and hammers and you’re ready to pack up.

When you are done passing on sandwiches to foreigners maybe you can come visit us, the locals. Maybe you can come see our lives.

Last week, my sister’s son was bitten by amagundwane, you know, those big rats. Moses survived, but now we don’t know if he has rabies. They took him to the clinic, but they said he has to come back next week because
the nurse couldn’t find a taxi. Because of xenophobia they said. So my sister came back home to Kennedy Road (she lives in Durban) and her son will get bitten again. Because of the foreigners. The world must stop. Because of them.

Xenophobia is the cause of everything today. There aren’t any toilets. Because of xenophobia. No electricity? Because of xenophobia.

Do you think we are stupid and blind? We see how outraged you are when some foreigners are attacked. We see you taking them hot food, providing them with shelter. I’m sure there are no rats in those tents. My brother in Jo’burg told me that in Mayfair you have a big tent with just 35 people inside. Maybe 200 people can fit in it but it’s reserved for foreigners. But what about the homeless sleeping around Mayfair? Why not give them shelter also? Whose country is this? I’m very confused.

We know you like them; the foreigners. They can buy your things and sell them to us. They are good at business, no matter. But you are only interested in business and money. But we have to live with them. We have to take their stares. They look at us like we are surrounded by all this opportunity, but too stupid to do anything about it. They think we are less than them.

So you want to deal with them, protect them because it’s easier to build your wealth with them rather than help us. Go ahead. It is easier to work with them rather than train us, educate us. Oh, you think we should educate ourselves? Ah, yes, we are lazy and feel entitled. At my cousin’s school in Messina they’ve had no textbooks since last year. The teacher comes to class drunk on Tuesdays.

Some papers were changed, apartheid was over but what skills do I have to make freedom real for me? They promised us so much, but where are the fruits of this nation? I see fuck all.

After fifty years of pushing us down in the mud, you want us to behave like the foreigners who made it here. Some of them are teachers, doctors, lawyers – they came here because of trouble in their homes. How is that my fault?

There is so little space here in the townships – and they are taking that too. If we live in the city, we must live like dogs in a dirty hostel. If we go back to the farm, they tell us to go back to Durban or Jozi. They say it’s drying up there. The farmers have foreigners in the field also. It’s cheaper to hire them than us.

These guys have their own system of money lending. But tell me who will give me a loan? I don’t even have an address. Who will give me a chance?

So we come back here to the township. And we scavenge for the leftovers. We burn some tyres, then the counsellor talks to us – otherwise no one comes to Alex. No journalists come here. We know how to get them though.

We’ve got the message now to calm it down. So we will.

We know your beloved image has been damaged. You want to protect your business in Zambia and Congo and wherever. It’s okay, go do your thing. Ignore us. Treat us like fools.

But remember it will happen again.

Yours faithfully,
The xenophobic mob

– Featured image: By Qiniso Mbili.


  1. No sympathy, if twenty-one year of ANC government did not result in at least basic education and skills training, why do you keep on voting for them. The black youth of today will be known as the 30-percenters.

    Your ANC has destroyed:
    – Eskom
    – SAA
    – Education
    – The Scorpions (and the Hawks)
    ect. ect.

    The only thing the ANC has built in the last five years is Nkandla

    Your dear President feels nothing for you.

    The power for improving your situation is in your hands – Don’t vote ANC.

    Otherwise suffer.

    • a great big assumption for you to think that ‘they’ voted anc.
      is it not also possible that the anc have held their position in power by some other means?
      what an incompassionate remark from you to tell people to ‘suffer’. open up your heart and your mind and see what is really going on. we all have a different story to tell and the only way for progress to happen is for us to listen compassionately to eachother!

      • What means? Vote rigging? Get serious – the DA would have been in the courts if the ANC rigged the voting on that scale.

        And read what I wrote – If any person VOTE FOR the ANC with ZUMA as president, with Eskom failing, with education failing, the post office failing, with municipal services failing, with Nkandla, with the Guptas, with Shaik, with SAA failing, with the Scorpions and the Hawks being destroyed, with SARS being used in political games, with Thuli Madonsela treated as a pariah, with everything listed above, THEN THEY DESERVE TO SUFFER.

        At least if you don’t vote ANC you become a victim of this useless government, and not an enabler – and someone for positive change.

    • For a lot of people, as bad as things are (and they are really bad) they are way way better than they were when white people were in power. With the kind of attitude that people like Steven carry, how can we expect black people to trust a white people. Ever.

    • ‘The BLACK youth’… ‘will be known as 30%er’… ‘Your ANC’… Are you racist? Who told you that the black youth vote for ANC? Why would the white youth be excluded from the 30%ers? I think you need a spiritual change. let us know and we will pray for you.

      but good response, just don’t add that unnecessary stuff please.

    • the problem is the economy is still run by WHITES. I still yet to see a group of white businessmen on campaigns about uplifting black South Africans. How can the government serve all the poor and unemployed if the majority of whites still hold high positions in top SA companies not willing to share the wealth and knowledge but very quick to blame the government even on the little bit that it has been trying to give to the blacks.

  2. The reason these people are being showed sympathy is because they are being hunted down, burnt alive and murdered in cold blood.

    But carry on murdering people because that will solve our problems and bring peace and prosperity to South Africa..

    Good luck to you xenophobic mob.

  3. What if people were not outraged? Seems like middle class people are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The point is that this kind of violence is unacceptable. The fact that the ANC government has not delivered for its people is not the problem for the people who didn’t vote for it and knew all along it was a bunch of corrupt morons. The world sees this violence and business goes down, tourism goes down, faith in the country evaporates. and this affects jobs for poor people. The reason those tents are there, as one of the people above says, is because there is such massive violence being meted out against helpless people. The people helping the foreigners are also the people who happen to pay the taxes the build the palaces for this useless government. They are trying to undo the damage that you people have caused. They’re doing their best.

    • This is simply a nonsense article based on “what about” rhetorical reasoning. First rule of social solidarity – don’t kill.

      How many of these articles on xenophobia mention the commitment to neoliberal economics? If ‘greed is good’ is the mantra for life on this planet, are you surprised at what happens? Yet market based solutions, and standard economics is what unites the ANC, DA, most of the “intelligentia”, white business, black business, the major university courses, the investment banks, the tink thanks economists, the media, and Trevor Manuel (who works for the same folk who funded Rothschild).
      This is a tacky piece of work, similar to Ebrahim Fakir’s intellectualism – saying the most important question is what are the other Africans doing here in the first place! OMG

  4. Whoever wrote this article is stupid.

    Foreigners never placed you in township
    they did not make you work in their gardens and prevented you from good education.
    Neither did they force you to walk around the dompass.
    I know who did.
    It is the Afrikaaner who still – today – don’t want to admit that they are the root cause of the problem.

    That is the past though. Here is the present.
    Foreigners never stood up in 1994 and told you, you were free.
    They never asked you to vote for them to make your lives better.
    Neither did they promise you to fix your historical problem.
    I know who did it. One is the so called ‘hero’ Nelson Mandela, as well his friends and party ANC.

    • But Khumalo that is so besides the point. The point here is the middle class going on a pity party for foreigners when so many South Africans suffer everyday. How about a march in support of poor people when they crt about service delivery etc.? We are quick to support outsiders while we don’t care about our own. That is the point here. We are not patriotic. We are face buyers

    • im sorry to say this but screw whoever wrote article. South Africans have an entitlement mentality. For once get up and go hustle. The African brothers came to SA with nothing and hustled. South Africans are waiting for a flippin’ handout from the govt. Get over it bra. Some of us didn’t get our “middle class” lives handed to us, we worked out arses off to get to where we are. Do the same instead of ubuhlel’ ekoneni!!!

  5. But Khumalo that is so besides the point. The point here is the middle class going on a pity party for foreigners when so many South Africans suffer everyday. How about a march in support of poor people when they cry about service delivery etc. And no one listens? We are quick to support outsiders while we don’t care about our own. That is the point here. We are not patriotic. We are face buyers

    • You are getting so much opportunities and government’s hands out daily, but you are a waste & ungrateful, so everyone like that, will surely remained on the same dire situation. Please look at the amount of alcohol black townships consumes par day, look at the flash Germany & Japanese cars blacks in townships drives, and then ask yourself where that money is coming from, look at the government gazette on the billions spend on social welfares (I AM NOT SAYING THIS IS ENOUGH OR WELL SPEND) but ask yourself if these money poor blacks are using to buy expensive cars, was used to open shops, who could stop those new business owners? Could the foreigners stop us? Could the foreigners stop customers from entering in such shops?

  6. I guess that jealousy & looking for easy target is the bottom-line of these xenophobia and stupid misinform open letters.

    What stop you from doing like what those Africans like you, but now degraded to be foreigners are doing? Shouldn’t your looking at THEM inspire you, if you have any mind?

    They are blacks like you, they make legal money on front of you, with the facts many of your ilk says, that; those African foreigners didn’t came with any money, so they start small, they work hard, they earn less, they save more, they spend less, they drink less, they invest more, they waste no time, they move around searching for a chance & opportunity, they always on the move.

    They can’t even be allow to open a bank account, mean they cannot get any loan, so why you lazy, drunker, womanizers can’t do the same like foreigners?

    Yes you are not the cause of the miseries in other parts of Africa, which then cause them to come here, but trust me that, they are not alone; there is over 5 million South Africans from all colors searching green pasture all over the world.

    Last time I look around, I saw the working philosophy by those Africans, is what making China the position that country is right now, the 2nd powerful country on earth, in a very short moment, and everybody is saying soon China will become the world’s Super power.

    Using the Economic principles of: work hard, save more, think hard invest for long, waste no time, waste no money and waste no chance etc. while Mr America and Europe are collapsing waiting for big & respectable pay like YOU.

  7. It’s precisely this attitude, that’s the reason “whites” will continue to help those who help themselves. Anyone leaving their birth country, shows a willingness to roll up their sleeves and do the work and be responsible for themselves. If after 500 years you still can’t see that, you have closed eyes as to how to help yourself. It is very good to ask yourself why your circumstances are still the same. Do you litter? (CT municipality does a great job, but the mess is thrown down expectantly, then you must live in squalor) Have you started a crime patrol in your area? Do you report the thieves? Do you attempt to raise your children to believe that crime/ stealing is wrong. No, you don’t. Then you must live with the consequences of your actions. Your schools poor with a drunk headmaster – what have you done about this? Do you attend your school’s meetings? Are you on the school committee? Do you return stolen property with your child when he comes home with another child’s property? Are you taking responsibility for your self and walking the streets, selling whatever it takes to earn an honest days work? When someone in the community burns down the settlement, because it leads to greater gains – free building materials, food, bedding, clothes, even a monetary allowance, do you stand up against this practice. Do you even speak out against it? Or do you join in, trying to press upon the “pity button” of the very people who are now getting very tired of helping people who seem unwilling to help themselves. Charity does not last forever… but help will now be directed at helping people to help themselves; not people who expectantly sit back with hands outstretched year in and year out. Roll up your sleeves and do the work, consistently, daily, you never know, someone may just see this and THEN start to help you help yourself.

  8. There is quite a few flaws in the author’s reasoning.

    First it is an unsubstantiated claim that the South Africans blames Xenophobia as the cause of everything today. In fact this is very far from the truth. I’d say, especially the middle class, is blaming the ANC for our countries problems today.

    Second. The foreigners are not stealing poor peoples jobs. Their simply filling positions that can’t be filled by our uneducated poor. Do you really expect to be placed in a position that you can’t do!? That doesn’t make any sense. That’s even worse than welfare because your wasting your time while you receive a paycheck.

    I really encourage people reading this article to quickly go through these tree educational videos.

    Yep our poor doesn’t have any skills or education, but that’s not an excuse. Every nation was at that state at some point in time. Look at the asian’s for example. Their previous generation was exceedingly poor and uneducated. Most of them literally didn’t even have the opportunity to go to school. Look at their children now! Asia is exploding with skills and knowledge.

  9. I think that the levels of anger all over the country is palpable because there are still far too many among us who’ve not seen an amelioration not only in the quality of their lives, but also in the possibilities of opportunities. We shouldn’t dismiss the author’s grievance, it’s heartfelt and as a nation we must begin listening to their voices and grievances to better understand their views, to try to see live through their eyes is impossible unless we’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

    My heart goes out to the foreigners, but also to the angry people who have no other means of getting their grievances addressed and to be enabled so that they can have the access to the tools and instruments that would put them in charge of their own lives.

    I’ve seen the rats, the size of rat the author speaks of, and it’s just wrong that there are so many who have to put up with appalling conditions to this day because the opportunities are absent.
    To denigrate the author’s person is uncalled for, we can’t deny the author the lived experience of his everyday and the emotional affectation.

    We ignore the neediest and poorest among us at our peril, and it’s gone on for too long. There are too may ‘have-nots’ who’ve never been given the opportunity at a better life.

    I don’t condone the violence against foreigners and I am also unsure why the ANC has been voted into power repeatedly because the problem lies with the failure of government to give marginalized and left-behind South Africans every opportunity towards ownership of their lives.

    I hope for love and light to guide us, and I hope we don’t think that by denying the anger and frustration the author alludes to, will make it go away. It’s a concrete fact that the day to day conditions of the poorest and those left behind simmer and stew and will rise up to devour the whole country.

    To the author I’d like to say that I believe there are many who feel your pain, but are afraid to say so because of a fear that it would be taken as condoning the violence against innocent foreigners, so I would like to suggest that you keep us abreast of your state of mind and well-being and maybe there will be enough of us who can come together to find a solution to these issues that are, it seems to me, about to blow this country to smithereens.

  10. All your comments people of Mzansi always come down to WHITE and BLACK which reflects the beef between the two.All this got nothing to do with Xenophobia it is just been used to convey the bitter grief of whites and blacks in South Africa.Until that is resolved “But remember it will happen again”
    I am puzzled by how many white people are ignorant out there forgetting that the fruits of their oppression has made a South African black man free physically but enslaved mentally.Some of this white folks say we cant think for ourselves or work for ourselves,well can u kindly help us with that regard?I dont think you will coz u r so comftable in Sandton u pretty much dont give a rats ass until your investments and businesses are threatened then you will speak up and accusing this black people again as it is your norm and it has always been.South African blacks have awaken from their deep mental sleep and unfortunately they had a nightmare and you,white men you were in it but you are safe because you have your high walls and upgradable security systems as a result foreigners are falling victim to this.Come on board and help your fellow African South Africans is that too much to ask?Black people are fukll of love hence they gave you a chance to be in this new South Africa but all ya’ll doing is point fingers and call us useless all sorts of names

  11. Don’t start a war you can’t finish. Do you think these immigrants are stupid? It’s already happening… foreigners ganging together for protection. It happened in Durban. Guess what? That’s how the Italian and Irish Mafia in the US got started. You’re right, in that it will happen again. But be careful that it’s not YOU who end up being the hunted next time.


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