In November 2018, then Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba arrested a street trader pushing a cow’s head in a trolley in the Johannesburg CBD. He followed that up on Twitter with the following question in response to someone saying he should help small businesses rather than punish them: “We are going to sit back and allow people like you to bring us Ebolas in the name of small business? Health of our people first.”

The natural reaction to that comment is to focus on the idea that street traders are carrying Ebola. But really it’s the phrase “people like you” that one should be especially wary of. The Ebola suggestion is just crude xenophobic rubbish, easily categorised. History shows though,  when politicians start talking about “people like you” it tends to be the way serious and deep prejudice is both hidden and promoted...

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