SA ranks as one of the world’s most giving nations,
that’s a fact..

So why the xenophobic attacks?

some thoughts by Steuart Pennington

gifting-sa-good-newsAs South Africans we are all battling with this, the second wave, of widespread xenophobia in our country.
The first serious wave was in 2008, and there have been the odd, but less serious incidents since then.
It’s almost as if we, as a country, are paralysed by these events as they unfold – not knowing what to do because we don’t understand why.

Why, when we are ranked as one of the world’s most giving nations?

Here are some SA facts to consider:

Giving is difficult to measure. In the global rankings below we have moved from 34th from 69th out of 150 countries participating in the World Giving Index (see below). BUT

·  In terms of the number of registered NGO’s we rank in the top 10 countries globally.
· There are 100 000 registered NGO’s in SA, all doing their bit to contribute to a better SA.
· It is estimated that the corporate sector donates some R9 billion to CSI initiatives
· It is estimated that ordinary citizens donate some R15 billion to Charity
· Corporate Assisting Volunteering is SA is significant and growing

Colleen du Toit, CEO of Charities Aid Foundation Southern Africa (CAF Southern Africa) writes:

“The main motivation for personal generosity is a belief that giving can make a difference,
according to a pilot survey among Gauteng citizens released today by CAF Southern Africa.

The survey reveals that over 90% of respondents reported giving or volunteering during the three months prior to the study.   94% of the respondents gave goods, 85% donated money and 56% volunteered.

“These findings show a very strong culture of giving and mutual support among citizens in
Gauteng,” said Colleen du Toit, CEO of CAF Southern Africa.

“The results also reflect the findings of the most recent World Giving Index, published by the Charities Aid Foundation in the United Kingdom, which revealed that South Africa had moved up 35 places in the global league table of generosity.”

“These findings show that people want to make a difference by giving their time or money.

The obvious challenge, given the current resurgence of xenophobia in South Africa, is to
extend these altruistic actions to all people living in our country”, said du Toit.

“While it is wonderful to see people who are so generous with their time and money in Gauteng, we would also like to see individuals supporting the work of the civil society organisations that work to make a real difference in the long term.”

World Giving Index rankings

Country 2014 rank[2] 2013 rank[4]
 Myanmar 1 2
 United States 2 1
 Canada 3 2
 Ireland 4 5
 New Zealand 5 2
 Australia 6 7
 Malaysia 7 71
 United Kingdom 7 6
 Sri Lanka 9 10
 Trinidad and Tobago 10 n/a
 Bhutan 11 n/a
 Netherlands 12 8
 Indonesia 13 17
 Iceland 14 17
 Kenya 15 33
 Malta 16 12
 Austria 17 15
 Denmark 18 25
 Iran 19 n/a
 Jamaica 20 n/a
 Nigeria 21 20
 Thailand 21 38
 Cyprus 23 24
 Turkmenistan 23 26
 Finland 25 33
 Guatemala 25 30
 Dominican Republic 27 39
 Uzbekistan 28 50
 Germany 28 22
 Philippines 30 16
 Syria 30 35
 Israel 32 31
 Mongolia 32 41
 Costa Rica 34 23
 Slovenia 34 44
 South Africa 34 69
 Tajikistan 34 64

So, in respect of xenophobia what are the questions that need to be asked?


  • Why does it happen?
  • It is broadly economic, cultural or just the work of an extreme few?
  • Why are our African brothers and sisters being attacked in the very communities they are serving?
  • Are our immigration policies working and just how porous are our borders?
  • Why is political leadership so slow to react, just like they did when statues were vandalised?
  • Why do communities themselves have to mobilise before anyone listens?
  • Why is business leadership and Brand SA not doing more to explain to the world what the reasons are?
  • Why is SA Tourism not on the front foot dispelling the concerns of travellers regarding the safety of their visit?


So many questions, so few answers.

In my view the discussion on xenophobia is similar to the discussion on crime.

i) Is poverty the cause?

31% of South Africans live below US$2.00 per day, in India the figure is 83%, no xenophobia in India despite a rigid caste system.

ii) Is it the economy and unemployment?

There is no evidence to support a direct link to xenophobia, there are many countries with lower growth and greater unemployment with no xenophobia.

iii) Is it illegal immigration?

Europe is plagued by illegal immigration from North Africa, between Eastern Europe and Western Europe, and yes there have been riots in Paris, London, Birmingham, Berlin and some racist attacks, but mostly the riots are directed at the state – xenophobia is not the explanation.

iv) Is it cultural?

We are an ‘incredibly’ diverse country, amongst the most diverse globally, but we are not unique. It is true that many countries are battling with diversity particularly in recent times with the stand-off between Muslim and Christian communities (the Economist recently reported that most Western countries with small Muslim populations had a ‘majority’ who want Muslims immigrants disallowed).

v) Is it opportunistic?

As it was considered to be in London, Birmingham and Paris recently then leadership needs to pronounce, police need to act, and perpetrators need to be unceremoniously brought to book.

As Lee Davies from the Nelson Mandela Foundation writes:

“Xenophobia is an expression of a terrible failure of memory. We are forgetting the long years of struggle against ethnic and related forms of identity mobilisation. We are forgetting the support given by the peoples of the African continent to the struggle against apartheid.


And we are forgetting the legacies of liberation stalwarts like Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada and many other veterans of the struggle.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and Anant Singh and Videovision Entertainment call on all South Africans to take responsibility for embracing the hospitality that defines our democratic order and to work together to find solutions to a problem which is destroying lives and bringing South Africa shame internationally. We urge those in leadership positions to lead. We encourage all who can lead to become leaders.”

CAF Southern Africa is launching its new report on giving and volunteering by Gauteng citizens on Tuesday 21 April at 08.00 at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) in Johannesburg. For more information and to receive a copy of the report please contact

Colleen du Toit
T:  + 27 11 334 0404

F:  + 27 11 334 0580

C:  + 27 (0) 83 646 8469