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"Why are they killing? Why?"

This was the question posed by 16-year-old Mmathapelo Malapane, a Grade 10 Mabuya Secondary School pupil representing the children of Daveyton, at the memorial of slain Mozambican taxi driver Mido Macia. (Daveyton police were filmed dragging Mozambican taxi driver Mido Macia behind their vehicle for the five hundred metres to the police station where he died of his injuries).

Mmathapelo Malapane: "What is it that Mido Macia did that he was killed like a dog? Is it because he is a foreigner?"

Gwede Mantashe: (ANC secretary-general) "If you are a foreigner and killed in our country, it is xenophobic.”

futurefact finds: around six out of ten South Africans (pretty well across the board) believe that: “in general, people from South Africa are superior to those from other parts of Africa” with 45% agreeing that South Africa is “more like America or Europe than Africa”. Almost six out of ten say they regard themselves as South African but not African (this decreases to just over half among black South Africans). It is against this sense of superiority and separateness that we need to review South Africans’ attitudes to foreigners. When it comes to foreigners South Africans’ fears are two-fold: economic – eight out of ten believe that foreigners get jobs in preference to South Africans because they are prepared to work for less money; and crime – 55% believe that “most criminals in South Africa are foreigners”.

As South Africans who recall riots that spread through the country in May 2008 (where an estimated 62 people died), we fear a resurgence of xenophobia within communities. In the case of Macia, futurefact believes that if there is any xenophobia it is within the police force and not among Daveyton residents. Their protests have been provoked by fear of the police and police brutality which they witnessed all too vividly.

Mmathapelo Malapane: "If I am attacked where must I run to? We do not know which police station is safe. While [the police] are supposed to be against crime, they kill our mothers and fathers. They kill and harm, [they] hijack... We thought this killing and harming was over. No. We were wrong".

Gwede Mantashe: “This is not just a family matter ... it has the potential to affect many. The rising level of violence by police must be addressed...It is just as equally bad when South Africans are killed by police, especially as they [the police] are the very ones meant to be protecting people, not killing them ... This is not a narrow issue. You can see it in the cases of police brutality, violence against women and children, and service-delivery protests.”

futurefact finds: Only 23% of South Africans interviewed for futurefact in 2012 said that they have complete confidence in the SA Police while 35% admitted to being “scared of the police”. This was particularly true of lower socio-economic groups where this went as high as 40%. Reinforcing the level of fear, distrust and at best lack of confidence in the police, almost three in ten say they “would never go to a police station on my own to report a crime”. But maybe the greatest indictment of the South African Police Service (SAPS), our police force, whose service Code of Conducts starts: “I commit myself to creating a safe and secure environment for all people in South Africa”, is that two thirds of South Africans believe that “a lot of police are criminals themselves”. futurefact’s Jos Kuper comments that “Daveyton residents have come out against perceived police brutality and police xenophobia and there appear to have been no xenophobic comments against foreigners from the residents themselves who have, in fact, mobilised against the police”.

Gwede Mantashe: "What is happening is worrying ... it is a sign that we are a very angry nation and calls for something to be done”.

Graça Machel: “South Africa is an angry nation. We are on the precipice of something very dangerous with the potential of not being able to stop the fall."

futurefact finds: 94% of South Africans feel that they belong in South Africa and feel a strong sense of commitment to the country. But futurefact findings confirm what Mantashe and Machel say about anger in South Africa. 37% of South Africans admit that they “often feel angry these days” (particularly those in lower socio-economic groups) with a similar percentage feeling that they have “no power or control over my own life”. 42% say they often feel depressed (again particularly lower socio-economic segments) and 61% “I have dreams but I feel as though I never achieve them”. Anger and depression combined with feelings of hopelessness and lack of control can be powerful forces for social change which could easily tip over into violence if not addressed with some urgency.

futurefact has been surveying the attitudes and beliefs of South Africans since 1998. The findings presented above are from futurefact 2012 which is based on a probability sample of 2,946 adults aged 15 years and over, living in communities of more than 500 people throughout South Africa representing 21.6 million adults.

If you would like to find out more about futurefact and its extensive attitudinal databases please contact Jos Kuper 082 904 9939 or check out www.futurefact.co.za