Moving beyond xenophobia: Structural violence, conflict and encounters with the 'other' Africans

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This paper examines conflict and cooperation between South Africans and Somali spaza shop owners in townships and informal settlements in the context of post-apartheid structural inequities. I argue that Somali and other poor newcomers suffer the same daily insecurity as the majority of the population. However, with the exception of the concerted killings, lootings and displacement of migrants in 2008-2009, this Somali case shows that contact between newcomers and local people is not always antagonistic and that newcomers are not passive victims of violence, but rather engage successfully in both competition and collaboration to cement their presence in these areas. I conclude that violence against migrants is rooted in South Africa's continuing structural violence and communal crisis, a condition characterised by tensions with compatriots as well as with newcomers. To solve the problem, attention must be paid to the persistence of this structural violence in the post-apartheid political dispensation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)691-704
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopment Southern Africa
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Somali refugees
  • South Africa
  • informal sector
  • structural violence
  • xenophobia


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