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After South Africa's World Cup, xenophobic threats on the rise

South Africa hosted a successful World Cup, but now many citizens are stepping up threats against migrant workers from other African countries. Will there be a repeat of deadly riots of 2008? One employer is building an 'asylum.'

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In 2008, he flew another Malawian employee to Blantyre because he was too afraid to travel by road via Johannesburg. He returned, but has since fled again, with his family.

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How sympathetic are the police?

Brown says that in his experience, the police have become a lot more professional and competent in dealing with xenophobic attacks since then. However, he says he cannot shake the impression that the police are "not that sympathetic."

"They don't want to protect us," says the Zimbabwean barman. He has also been told to clear out of the area, because locals want his job.

Although criminals exploit the situation, and competing shopkeepers aren't exactly heartbroken to see foreign competition removed, the root of the problem is employment, Brown believes. He says the key lies in the education and work ethic of foreign laborers.

"We used to have the same problem between local workers and Xhosas from the Eastern Cape," he says. "The locals were on the bottle all weekend, while the Xhosas who came into town were lean, mean, and hungry. They worked hard and got most of the jobs; there was a lot of enmity between the locals and the migrants.

"We're now seeing the same thing with foreigners. They come here from Zimbabwe or Malawi with a different attitude to work," says Brown. "They also need to be trained, just like the locals, but they want to learn and to improve their skills. Instead of drinking their wages away, you see them after a few weeks riding a bicycle, while the locals are forever walking everywhere. A year later, they have an old car. They have ambition, and all of them dream of earning a position of responsibility," he says.

Foreigners desire to work hard irks locals

Peter agrees. "Where I come from, we know you have to work to provide for your family. Even if that means waking up early, and coming home late," he says. "These other guys, they don't want to work, so we get the jobs."

He agrees that simple criminality is also a motivation for this kind of violence. "They just want to take other people's stuff, you know?"

When Brown drives along the main road to the industrial area, where unemployed laborers wait in the hope of finding short-term work, the foreigners are on the left-hand side, and the local Xhosas on the right.

"It's always been like that. They're separated. And it sometimes happens that one of the Xhosas will yell at me, 'Hey you, where's my job?'" He pauses, with a frown on his face. "Well, that way he'll never get one."

Peter does not know how long he will have to live in the make-shift flat in the corner of the cold factory. "I don't want to live here. It's better to live in the community, where we can talk and share ideas, than to live here, alone, with nobody around. But what can I do when they say they will kill me?"

---- Names have been changed or omitted at the request of interviewees, who fear reprisals.

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