Date: January 19, 2022 Type: Country:

South Africa: Political leaders must stop blaming foreign nationals for the country’s unemployment problem

High-ranking public officials and political leaders must stop blaming the country’s high unemployment problem and poor economic status on foreign nationals, refugees and asylum seekers as this has the potential to re-ignite xenophobia in the country, Amnesty International South Africa said today.

“It is easy to blame foreign nationals, refugees and asylum seekers for the country’s high unemployment problems, but the fact of the matter is that an economy like South Africa cannot rely on local skills alone to grow and create jobs. Evidence shows that some of the biggest and industrialized economies around the world have grown because they have absorbed the foreigner workforce and skills,” said Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa.

“Blaming foreign nationals for the country’s unemployment problem will only fan the xenophobic flames against this vulnerable group in the country, because they are always used as scapegoats for various problems facing the country. High-ranking public officials and politicians must resist the urge to blame foreign nationals for the high unemployment problem facing the country.”   

“High-ranking public official and political leaders must caution against re-igniting xenophobia and must rather seek to unite people instead of dividing them. The words and actions of leaders matter.”


Xenophobic messaging and voicenotes have been making the rounds on social media. This comes as Economic Freedom Fighter’s leader Julius Malema conducted a visit to restaurants at the Mall of Africa shopping mall to check the employment ratio between South African citizens and foreign nationals. Mr Malema reportedly said the problem was not foreign nationals but the employers who prioritise foreign workers, because they can exploit them, ahead of South Africans.

After reportedly visiting three restaurants, Mr Malema conceded that it was not true that the establishments were inclined towards hiring mainly foreign nationals.

 TimesLive on Wednesday reported that Pakistani small business owners were attacked and robbed in Mpumalanga.

 Amnesty International has previously highlighted how past acts of violence, including the killing of foreign nationals during xenophobic violence have gone unpunished,  leading to an entrenched culture of impunity.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Genevieve Quintal, Media and Communications Officer, Amnesty International South Africa: +27 (0)64 890 9224;

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Amnesty International South Africa office, 97 Oxford Road, Saxonwold, Johannesburg, 2196