The planned march against the foreigners in Pretoria is cause for serious concern. This country is yet to fully recover from the ugly xenophobic scenes of 2008, which famously claimed the life of one Ernesto Nhamuave, a Mozambican national set alight in Ramaphosa informal settlement.
Frankly, the xenophobic outburst of 2008 and the subsequent skirmishes have achieved nothing for the perpetrators, and nor did the government take bold steps to address the root cause. A few verbal denouncements and antixenophobic awareness campaigns here and there, and we buried our heads in the sand hoping the problem would disappear.
The reality is that we are still experiencing an influx of illegal immigrants, especially from our neighbouring Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, the undesirable state of the economy in other parts of Africa, coupled with pockets of civil conflicts, make SA an attractive option despite our challenges. There is no doubt that South Africans are generally peace-loving and have for a long time lived side by side with their fellow Africans.
However, competing for insufficient economic resources often triggers emotional outbursts by locals. In the absence of a long-term co-ordinated solution to this unending influx, it is only natural for tensions to boil over at some point. Compounding this problem is the chronic unemployment, especially among the youth, caused by our "snail-pace" economic growth. Evidently, foreigners are quick to spot and take advantage of economic opportunities, an entrepreneurial skill South Africans are yet to learn.
In a stagnant economy I can think of two possible solutions to this problem, depending on political will. Firstly, to alleviate the issue of illegal immigrants the government needs to strengthen border controls and carefully screen everyone who passes through. Secondly, the economic activities of foreign nationals need to be regulated, especially in the SMME sector, with preference given to locals. This may prove complex but the local authorities have the ability to do it and should take the lead.