Are SA politicians dismayed when people are hostile to immigrants because they hate competition? Last week, there was a common SA event: citizens attacking immigrants. This time, the violence was caused by claims that immigrant shop owners were selling goods that had passed their expiry date or were counterfeit. For not the first time, an issue that is really about the exploitation of the poor became an excuse to turn on immigrants. Officials condemned the violence and commentators earnestly discussed why the poor take out their anger on people who were not born here, migrants from elsewhere in Africa in particular. This is a common reaction to what is, sadly, a common event. Violence against immigrants is far more widespread than news reports suggest, and when it does come to light the reaction always assumes that politicians and other polite people know how to treat people from elsewhere in a "civilised" way, but township and shack settlement residents do not. This is a buck-passi...

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