An old cliché tells us that words can never harm us. Immigrant Soweto traders know that it is, sadly, untrue — particularly when the people who use the words are politicians.

As a nationalist tide sweeps the world, it has become common, as it was in the 1930s, for politicians to vilify those who look or sound different. But it is now less acceptable to denounce people for being born in the “wrong” place or of the “wrong” parents, so they have become good at expressing prejudice while not saying what they really mean.

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