The Scandal by Suren Pillay

Writer’s Brief

When the picture of the killing of Ernesto Nhamuave during the “xenophobic violence” of May 2008 ran in the daily South African papers, it caused what we might describe as a “scandal” – a disjuncture in how we imagine ‘the nation’, and ruptured certain conceptions of it.

In the aftermath, the media and civil society was flooded with articles and reports analyzing the situation. Amidst this furor, we turn the attention away from how we understand or think about this violence to reflect on how we respond and are responding, and what that says about how we understand the violence.

The piece exposes how in South Africa a very vocal minority determines the discourse, and the agenda, because they posses the cultural, social and economic capital to do so. It reads the discourse surrounding the violence (in the media, from leaders, NGOs and academic), to question this minorities ability to address the problem and to examine how they may in fact contribute to it.

Reading List

  • Press Resource <>
  • Fine, J. & Bird, W.  2006 ‘Shades of Prejudice: An Investigation into the South African Media’s Coverage of Racial Violence and Xenophobia. Race and Citizenship’ in Transition Series.
  • Mbembe, A 2007. “Why Am I Here,”  in L McGregor and S Nuttall (eds) At Risk: Writing On and Over the Edge of South Africa, Jonathan Ball, Johannesburg
  • Hadland, A 2008 ‘Shooting the messenger: Mediating the public and the role of the media in South Africa’s xenophobic violence.’ Democracy & Governance Research Programme, Human Sciences. Codesria <>
  • Gomo, T 2010  Analysis of media reporting and xenophobia violence among youth in South Africa. MA Thesis, Malmö högskola/Centrum för teknikstudier. <>
  • HRSC. 2008 ‘Citizenship, Violence and Xenophobia in South Africa: Perceptions from South African Communities.’ Democracy and Governance Programme Human Sciences Research Council, Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town <>
  • Pillay, S 2009 “Crime Community and the Governance of Violence in post-Apartheid South Africa”, Politikon. 35(2):141-158.
  • Pillay, S  2008 “Xenophobia, Violence And Citizenship, Setting the scene: the HSRC Report.” In Hadland, A. (ed). Violence and xenophobia in South Africa: developing consensus, moving to action. A partnership between the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the High Commission of the United Kingdom. <>

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