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Xenophobic attacks may harm image of local business

| Crime and security

The xenophobic violence outbreak in Durban could harm the image of South African big business investing around the continent, said political analyst Prof Somadoda Fikeni.

Malawi and Somalia have indicated an intention to repatriate their citizens from SA following the ongoing violence in areas around Durban, including Isipingo, KwaMashu and Umlazi.

The Times reported that the two countries had asked for assistance from the Department of International Relations and Co-operation.

Although speculation is rife that a diplomatic row will ensue from this, Prof Fikeni said this was unlikely as the South African government was unambiguous in condemning the violence.

However, he said the violence against African immigrants could dent South African corporations’ image in the rest of the continent.

"It (the violence) could build resentment among people of other countries, who see that South Africans do not welcome them and they would figure, ‘Why should we welcome you?’ Those businesses you bring into other countries are not on the small scale that you see here, but they are big companies," Prof Fikeni said.

South African companies that have expanded their investments around the continent include retail giant Shoprite and telecommunications company MTN.

Prof Fikeni said the announcement by the Kenyan government that it would close its Dabaab refugee camp and give Somalis two weeks to leave the east African country was more likely to spark a diplomatic row, as this was a deliberate government decision.

He said violence against foreigners in township areas underscored competition for scarce resources and the perpetrators sought to exclude the most vulnerable groups from the communities.

"It is extremely difficult to contain the growth of small business in townships, with a car wash here and a spaza shop there. We should invite big business from Africa to come here, invest and provide jobs," he said.

"This is mainly the scramble for limited resources in township where little in the way of law exists and there is a perception that foreigners are taking local jobs," he said.

The Times reported that the Department of International Relations and Co-operation had declined to about the two governments’ decision to repatriate their citizens.

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