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EFF now pressing anti-immigrant button in bid to charm voters, says HSRC researcher

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The Human Science Research Council’s Dr Steven Gordon said debates about economic opportunity and immigration in South Africa should acknowledge that a significant minority holds very strong anti-immigrant views and when activated, these views can cause violent anti-immigrant activity.

EFF Leader Julius Malema inspects Johannesburg restaurants that employ foreign nationals. Picture: Sizwe Ndingane/EFF

THE MUCH-publicised visits by EFF leader Julius Malema to restaurants to inspect the ratio of South African to immigrant workers employed is a campaign to drum up support which may fuel animosity and anti-immigrant sentiments, the Human Science Research Council’s Dr Steven Gordon has warned.

“Obviously, the EFF’s actions over the recent period show a party trying to push the anti-immigrant button despite their rhetoric to the contrary. This, I assume, is an attempt to shore up support within certain constituencies following a disappointing performance in the recent local government elections,” Gordon told TV channel Newzroom Afrika.

He said politicians should avoid sowing inter-group animosity to drive political support.

“South Africa has a very long history in which politicians used divisive rhetoric around inter-group relations to obtain power, and that divisive and tragic history is still borne in the legacy of South Africa today,” said Gordon, who is a public opinion scientist.

He said debates about economic opportunity and immigration in South Africa should acknowledge that a significant minority in South Africa holds very strong anti-immigrant views and when activated, these views can cause violent anti-immigrant activity.

There is a “zero-sum bias” amongst certain South Africans who wrongly believe that if a foreign national gets an economic opportunity, it is lost to a local person, the senior researcher said.

“This zero-sum thinking is very powerful in South Africa. The Human Science Research Council recently completed a substantial piece of research showing that one third of adult South Africans hold these zero-sum bias views in a high manner. They are highly predisposed to view economic opportunities as regards to foreign nationals in a zero-sum way,” said Gordon.

“Economists will tell you that this is a very limited and frankly uninformed way to think about economic opportunity. Economic opportunity is not zero-sum.”

Along with Malema, the EFF leadership in Tshwane has also been visiting restaurants, inspecting the employment ratio of South Africans to non-citizens.

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