Insightful read on many aspects of xenophobia

The introduction to this important book was written by Wits academics Shireen Hassim, Tawana Kupe and Eric Worby.

The introduction to this important book was written by Wits academics Shireen Hassim, Tawana Kupe and Eric Worby.

The words are carefully chosen, like they were the work of a conscientious writer eager to keep his reader enthralled.

That's one reason why I read on. The other, perhaps the biggest, is that the subject is relevant, timely and so in-your-face - xenophobia.

Reverend Paul Verryn wrote the foreword. He was not writing in some air-conditioned office. He lived cheek by jowl with the foreigners as they escaped the wrath of locals to seek refuge in his Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg.

They shared his office, his food, his phone.

Contributors include journalist Alex Eliseev, who covered the attacks for a Joburg daily, and others, like Loren B Landau, try to dissect the causes and others, like Ivorian Veronique Tadjo, warn South Africa against the Ivory Coast route.

It is a useful book, better than the myriad talk shops that followed the senseless violence that left 62 people dead and countless others misplaced.

Many reasons, from a lack of housing and jobs to competition for women, have been punted for the madness.

The book offers a kaleidoscope of views to ponder.

Noor Nieftagodien's essay, Xenophobia in Alexandra, is instructive.

Read the account of victim Rolf Maruping who was born here though his parents are Mozambicans. It is an account of being hounded out of a community he was lulled into thinking was his own.

While police have been at the forefront of making the lives of illegal foreigners miserable, they did an about-turn during the violence, housing the victims in police stations.

Read Julia Hornberger's Policing Xenophobia - Xenophobic Policing: A Clash of Legitimacy.

The police were in a Catch-22 situation. In their quest to be accepted by the community and gain their trust, they could not be seen protecting "enemies".

Journalism lecturer Anton Harber examines how the Daily Sun and The Star reported on the issue. His take is thought-provoking.

Political activist Andile Mngxitama speaks to the urban black middle class in his We Are Not Like That. Recognise a part of yourself in his arguments.

If this column rated books, this one would get 9 out of 10. The point to total the score would come after a chapter or two on reintegration.