South Africa has turned into a battle zone in the past few weeks. Man-on-man violence. Race on Race violence. The future of black South Africans has turned into bloodshed.
South Africa is a highly xenophobic society, which out of fear of foreigners, does not naturally value the human rights of non-nationals. It is shocking and unacceptable that we treat those within us as different and worthless. South Africans are no less different than those who oppressed us during the apartheid era.
The Republic of South Africa has had a tumultuous 20th century. Africa’s southernmost nation today is one of the most prosperous and developed in Africa. However, the unfortunate reality is that in spite of its successes it has borne the burden of unequal, unjust racial segregation for most of the past century.The apartheid era did a lot of things that hinder production and success rates within the black community. Hardship and determination is what drives them to categorize us as unworthy of being called human. Fear and anxiety leads to violence to those that are a minority.
The root cause of xenophobia in our country is caused by many factors, which we, in one or another have contributed towards. According to a background paper compiled by the University of the Witwatersrand in 2005, which highlighted some of these factors that trigger rage.
Attitudes towards foreigners vary, but anti-foreigner sentiments are widespread throughout South African society. There are many explanations for anti-foreigner attitudes rooted in individual psychology and economic conditions as well as South Africans’ historical and political context. Foreigners are often blamed for economic problems when they are likely to be making a net contribution. Non-nationals are disproportionately the victims, not the perpetrators of crime and foreigners are used as political scapegoats, distracting attention from the government’s faults and failings.
Recapping on history. In 2008, former South African president Thabo Mbeki made a statement during the xenophobic attacks that were happening in the country. I dully hope that South Africa remembers that Thabo Mbeki precautioned attacks that are happening now then.
Mbeki brought up a forum that would establish and develop African countries. Sustainability and economic security was his highlight. He embarked on mandating African leaders and councils to establish this, so as to preventing a high number of migrants flooding to South Africa. Helping in self-development for those countries was remarkable, but we as South Africans did not bother to look at the bright side but immediately labeled him as a traitor and nationalist. Look where that got us now.The foundation of Africa liberation is through our forefathers that considered Africa having no border. Rich in culture and history that is intertwined.
“We have always known that regardless of the boundaries drawn by others to define us as different and separate from our kith and kin, and even despite our occupation of different spaces across the divides occasioned by the existence of the oceans that nature has formed, we share with those of whom we are part, a common destiny.” Thabo Mbeki (2008).
Today as South Africans, we express pain, anger and fear to our fellow brothers and sisters. Fellow Africans from various African countries – Somalia, the DRC, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Malawi – and others, who are based in temporary camps, separated from the African communities in which they lived peacefully as fellow-Africans. But until today we see none of that.
“We will work to mobilize all our communities to isolate and defeat the evil elements in our midst who target vulnerable African migrants, subjecting them to violent attacks for criminal purposes and personal gain”, remarkable words from a great man. What is our government doing now to combat this, instead of saying,”it is uncalled for”.
Wake up South Africa. Mbeki saw it coming but we were invested in our own suffering to realize it. Migrants had no need to hide their country of origin, for they have not experienced xenophobia. They are breaded from countries that are brewing with war. Seeking a better life in South Africa. But it seems that having a safe haven is not on the menu in this country. Everyone considers themselves as South Africans.
Fearing if they reveal themselves, their lives will be in danger. South African’s heads should bow in shame, because of the immense pain and fear about the future that some among us deliberately inflicted on fellow Africans in our country, who originate from other lands on our Continent and elsewhere in the world. “I will not hesitate to say that despite the centrifugal impulses generated by colonialism and apartheid leading to the dissipation of the human instinct towards human solidarity, my people, still, harbor in their hearts a deep-seated respect for the practice immanent in the outlook described as Ubuntu, to give water, food and refuge to the traveler.”
It is all coming back to us. We are regretting it.
Those who have eyes will see that we as South Africans are hypocrites. We gladly accept the services that these foreigners offer us, but in due time we turn our backs on them and start diverting our anger to them.Those who have eyes to see will have seen that the majority of the immigrants who live in conditions of poverty as do many of our people were not attacked.
Have we lost the spirit of “Ubuntu”?
Have we become enemies of other Africans?
As South Africans, who fought for more than three centuries to achieve the dignity of all Africans and all human beings, regardless of race, color, and gender, have we allowed ourselves that we fall victim to the criminal acts of xenophobia?