It has been almost six years since the demise of South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and former president Nelson Mandela. With the departure of its beloved Madiba, South Africa did not necessarily return to the pre-egalitarian state, but expatriates living in the country are going through nightmares.
Local mobs - mainly unruly youths- frequently unleash violent attacks on foreign nationals. In waves of recent anti-immigrant violence, they have assaulted and set fire to business houses and looted shops of immigrants. The miscreants have also killed many of the expatriate owners and workers.
As per recent statistics availed from the Bangladesh mission in Pretoria, every year over 100 Bangladeshis are killed in South Africa. These murders are often the results of conflicts with the local South Africans.
According to official data, of the two million foreign nationals who are currently residing in South Africa, around three lakhs are Bangladeshis.
A small number of the Bangladeshi immigrants in South Africa are professionals while majority of them run electronics and grocery stores and restaurant business.
In the recent spate of violence, according to local media, from September 2 to September 4 of this year, unruly youths and gangsters have vandalized and looted several hundred shops of immigrants, including those owned by Bangladeshis.
In the face of such horrific attacks, Bangladeshi expatriates in South Africa are living in a state of constant panic of losing their businesses and safety of life.
After the attacks, the Bangladeshi High commissioner visited the affected areas. Up until now, the Bangladeshi High Commission has not done anything significant other than advising the expats to call the police in case of emergency.
The High Commissioner recently told a newspaper based in Dhaka that the High Commission could not do much to prevent the killings. Instead, he accused that actions of Bangladeshis- such as hiring goons to kill other Bangladeshi businessmen- in South Africa is "tarnishing the image" of Bangladesh.
Fear is contagious
On August 25 this year, two Bangladeshi workers- Ujjal and Alom- were killed in Cape Town. Ujjol owned a grocery where Alom worked as his assistant.
At the middle of the fateful night, local goons came and demanded money from Ujjol. Upon his refusal, they shot him in the head. He died on the spot. The goons then went behind the shop and killed Alom.
Many other identical stories have surfaced in the Bangladeshi diasporas in South Africa and the immigrants' panic continues to escalate.
On January 23 of this year, Bangladeshi shopkeeper Mohin Uddin was brutally killed by extortionists in the Rustenburg province. The next day, his body was found inside a fridge.
Mohin's story, as reported in Bangladeshi media, unfolded in the similar pattern. The goons came in demanding for money. When denied, they killed Mohin. Poor Mohin migrated to South Africa three years ago for a better life.
Although the Bangladeshi High Commissioner asked to seek help from the police, in most cases, the victims are afraid of going to the law enforcement agencies. They fear that even if the criminal is arrested, he might later manage to escape custody and attack the victim again or even kill him.
Why these attacks?
According to BBC, the recent attacks were triggered by high unemployment in South Africa. Local people blame foreigners for taking away their jobs.
Currently in South Africa, the unemployment rateis nearly 28 percent, the highest since the labour force survey was introduced 11 years ago in Pretoria.
The social development minister of South Africa admitted to the BBC that the rioters "feared losing their jobs to foreigners."
A large number of unemployed youths feel jealous with the immigrants who are well off doing businesses or excelling in their respective professions.
According to Foreign Policy, in the wake of the most recent anti-immigrant violence, hundreds of foreign nationals want to leave South Africa, and some have already goneback to their countries of origin.
These xenophobic attacks on the foreign nationals in South Africa have put the Ramaphosa government at odds. However, Cyril Ramaphosa looks too shy to call a spade a spade as his government is treating these attacks as mere crimes instead of xenophobia.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) government must acknowledge that these attacks are xenophobic and prove its seriousness to end this new wave of hatred.
On the other hand, despite its limitations, the Bangladeshi High Commission in South Africa must also seek assistance from the South African government and ensure that proper actions are taken to save the Bangladeshis nationals who are now living in an unprecedented state of uncertainty and fear.