Reactions and Actions to Xenophobia in South Africa: An Analysis of The Herald and The Guardian Online Newspapers

Aretha O. Asakitikpi, Joanah Gadzikwa


The spate of xenophobic attacks that occurred in South Africa first in 2008 and more recently in 2015 has raised questions in relation to causes and possible solutions. These discourses have focused on South African narratives with little contributions on how other African nationals perceive and conceptualize xenophobia. The paper recognizes the power of the mass media in serving as a major source of information for a variety of people in shaping their views and opinions about issues concerning xenophobia. Based on mass media narratives, the concept of a global village becomes more apparent as viewers, listeners and readers were informed of the events even though they were several miles away and in the comfort and safety of their environments. The paper argues that the media did not only inform but also served as a platform through which national and international reactions and actions could be aired and reported. These reactions and actions speak to a perceived identity that bind people along the lines of fundamental and sensitive issues such as religion, gender, rights and race. The Arab Spring protests exemplify the quintessential demonstration of the mobilization, by mass media, of citizens who through reactions and actions united to fight a common course and defend a common identity in the 21st century. The study focuses on the xenophobic attacks in South Africa between April and June 2015. The paper considers xenophobia not from the point of view of South African journalists and citizens but from the narratives of foreign online newspaper reportage. Through content analysis of online versions of The Guardian (based in Nigeria) and The Herald (based in Zimbabwe), the study attempts to understand the role of the media in reporting the reactions and actions as identified in these papers. Key findings of the study suggest that mass media are not only instrumental in stimulating actions and reactions within the selected countries but also in South Africa where the xenophobic attacks took place.

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