Slum wars

by | May 23, 2008

Richard mentioned Mike Davis’ compelling book Planet of the Slums a while back and I’ve recently finished it, coincidentally it seems, just at the point when shanty towns and squatter camps in and around Jo’berg have erupted into violence. As Davis argues in his book

the contemporary mega-slum poses unique problems of imperial order and social control that conventional geopolitics has barely begun to register. If the aim of the “war on terrorism” is to pursue the erstwhile enemy into his sociological and cultural labyrinth, then the poor peripheries of developing cities will be the permanent battlefields of the twenty-first century.

In Jo’berg attacks have taken place in Alexandra, Reiger Park, Diepsloot, and Primrose. Estimates of the numbers of immigrants chased from their homes range from 13,000 to 20,000 with police patrolling the streets and the army called in to quell the violence – the first time they have been on the streets since the end of apartheid.

The wave of violence against foreigners in South Africa has now spread to Cape Town where Somalis and Zimbabweans have been attacked by mobs who have looted their homes and shops overnight. The cause of the outbreak is down to rapidly escalating food and fuel prices mixed with a healthy dose of xenophobia with South Africans accusing foreigners of increasing crime and taking jobs.


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    Charlie Edwards is Director of National Security and Resilience Studies at the Royal United Services Institute. Prior to RUSI he was a Research Leader at the RAND Corporation focusing on Defence and Security where he conducted research and analysis on a broad range of subject areas including: the evaluation and implementation of counter-violent extremism programmes in Europe and Africa, UK cyber strategy, European emergency management, and the role of the internet in the process of radicalisation. He has undertaken fieldwork in Iraq, Somalia, and the wider Horn of Africa region.

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