arrow-circle arrow-down-basicarrow-down arrow-left-small arrow-left arrow-right-small arrow-right arrow-up arrow closefacebooklinkedinsearch twittervideo-icon

ESA Regional Hub: Preventing and Responding to Hate- and Extremist-Motivated Violence in South Africa

Publication Date:
Content Type:

— 2 minutes reading time

On 30 May 2023, the Strong Cities Network East and Southern Africa (ESA) Regional Hub convened cities and other stakeholders from across South Africa to explore the role of cities in preventing and responding to hate- and extremist-motived violence in the country as part of  wider city-led efforts to promote public safety, build resilience and enhance social cohesion.  Co-hosted with the City of Cape Town and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), and financed under the EU’s STRIVE Cities initiative, the workshop included more than 50 representatives from local governments (including mayors), national government, civil society and academia across South Africa, as well as from UN-Habitat and the US Consulate in Cape Town.  In addition to the host city, the workshop included representatives from the following South African cities: Buffalo City, Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini (Durban), Johannesburg, Mbombela, Overstrand, Swartland, Stellenbosch and Tshwane.

Some of the key needs identified in order to enhance city-led hate, extremism and polarisation prevention and response efforts include:

The city leaders identified several threats and other challenges that hinder stability and economic growth in South Africa, including rising levels of xenophobia and mobilisation to target migrants, (e.g., 2021 saw the raise of Operation Dudula, an anti-foreigner’ movement targeting new arrivals), high crime rates (e.g, Illegal trade in narcotics and proliferation of illegal firearms), corruption and poor governance, as well as high unemployment rates (particularly among the youth).

In addition, participants mentioned the central government’s struggles to confront and deal decisively with wounds and traumas South Africans have suffered as a result of the country’s apartheid and colonial history.  These injustices and the failure to address them adequately have left segments of the population resentful and particularly susceptible to hate and extremist propaganda.  Participants shared how, although cities are on the front-lines of the manifestation of rising levels of discontent linked to these issues, they often lack the necessary mandate and support to address these challenges holistically and sustainably.

Other challenges facing local governments cited include limited national-local cooperation (NLC), cities’ lack of preparedness to proactively deal with the rising hate and extremist landscape and limited opportunities for cities in South Africa to share and learn from each other.  The preparedness challenge is particularly acute outside of the larger metros, where capacities are often limited.