Xenophobia, or negative feelings towards people from other countries, has been a prevalent issue in South Africa.

Xenophobia Sparks Violent Protests

In early September 2019, violent protests erupted in many cities in South Africa. The protests have since declined, but small-scale incidents have been occurred since the heightened activity on Sept. 1 and 2.

Xenophobia and misinformation about foreign nationals in the area has been the primary trigger for these violent incidents. Videos, photos, and messages have emerged on social media reportedly showing the violence and threats against foreigners in South Africa. The origin of these videos is usually unknown. In response to the violence, Air Tanzania suspended flights to Johannesburg. Countries across Africa have taken various security measures as a result of the ongoing violence, including:

  • Mozambique and Zimbabwe have implemented repatriation plans for several of their citizens.
  • Nigeria pulled out of the World Economic Forum Africa event.
  • Madagascar and Zambia canceled football matches against the South African national team in a show of soft-power diplomatic pressure.

In this podcast, listen as WorldAware intelligence analysts Fowzia Davids and Amanosi Ekenimoh discuss what's driving xenophobia sentiment across the region and the affect the protests have had on surrounding regions.



The map indicates locations where xenophobic protests or incidents have occurred in South Africa.

Retaliatory violence in countries whose citizens have been affected is likely if violence in South Africa continues. Though these anti-South Africa protests are not targeting foreigners, foreign travelers can be affected if found in areas where demonstrations or looting occurs.

Organizations with people in the area or who may have people with travel plans to Africa should keep the following advice in mind: 

  • If possible, avoid any areas previously affected by violence and plan routes to avoid these areas
  • Leverage a local security team to assist with appropriate in-country protocols and any applicable transfers that may be required for travelers
  • Exercise extreme caution and heed directives given by security personnel 
  • Avoid large crowds and areas where there’s a concentration of police
  • Take shelter in a secure building if violence breaks out
  • Do not attempt to photograph or record demonstrations
  • Make sure employees heading to or already in the area have been appropriately briefed on the situation happening

About WorldAware

WorldAware provides intelligence-driven, integrated risk management solutions that enable multinational organizations to operate globally with confidence. WorldAware’s end-to-end tailored solutions, integrated world-class threat intelligence, innovative technology, and response services help organizations mitigate risk and protect their people, assets, and reputations.