It is shocking, the news coming out of South Africa, the so-called rainbow nation. It is sad that whenever the word xenophobia is mentioned, South Africa naturally comes to mind. In fact, you could be excused for thinking the word, like apartheid, comes from South Africa. The week has been filled with blood-chilling stories of savage attacks on fellow Africans by South Africans.
Most shameful is that this is happening in a country where, during its apartheid policy era that made it stand out as a bad tooth in the African continent, it was the rest of Africa who stood in solidarity with the citizens to say no to the inhuman government policies.
It is shocking that this is happening in South Africa, the country of Nelson Mandela – the world’s recognised super hero of unity, solidarity and tolerance – less than two years after the world stood still in honour of Mandela and South Africa.
It is unacceptable that in 2015 Africa, nay the world, humans could be hacked down by fellow humans and their property looted in daylight, and nobody is made to account for it. This expression of hate really reminds one of the Rwandan genocide. It also raises fears of what we in Nigeria could have found ourselves in if the hate speeches that characterised our last elections had tipped the country over.
The South African carnage is being blamed on a statement allegedly made by President Jacob Zuma’s son (Edward) that the country is “sitting on a ticking time bomb”, while foreigners are “taking over”. It is further blamed on an ethnic leader, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, who reportedly said that “(foreigners should) pack their bags and leave”. It goes to show the weight that goes with words, statements and conducts of persons whose actions have deep influence on society, the citizens and their behaviours. And this was the point many of us stressed the other week when the Oba of Lagos went about threatening a group of ‘non-indigenous’ people of Lagos about their presumed electoral choice.
But seriously, where were all these blood-thirsty South Africans back in the days when other African countries (the governments and the people) sacrificed their resources for the emergence of a democratic and free South Africa. If some of those savage young people are ignorant of their country’s past, shouldn’t the adults know better and thus rein in their attack dogs?
I am pained because this whole incident would add to the narrative of Africa as that troublesome ‘country’ where all the negative reports emanate from. I am pained that the reason given for this hatred against other Africans is that they as migrants had taken over the (small-scale) economic opportunities and businesses in South Africa. This is ridiculous, knowing how South Africa and South African businesses have dominated medium and large-scale businesses in the rest of Africa.
It is equally disturbing that this hatred is directed at migrants of African origin. As it has been argued, many black South Africans see white migrants as investors and tourists and Africans as foreigners and criminals.
This madness in South Africa is capable of bringing out the beast in citizens in other parts of the continent and make nonsense of the much desired Africa’s integration. Matters are made even worse by the speed with which many are sharing reports, photos and videos of this barbarism on social media without much regards for decency. And the point really is that we do not need all those gory photos and videos to be shared on social media to know what is happening and condemn it.
The government of South Africa owes the rest of the world the duty to protect all peoples in its territory and to bring to justice everyone who tramples the right of others, be they citizens or migrants, be they legitimate or illegitimate residents of their territory.
In a statement issued during the week, ActionAid South Africa said: “South Africa owes a great debt to African countries for their support and solidarity during our liberation struggle. Their humanity and compassion stood in stark contrast to the inhumanity and violence of the regime here in South Africa. It is therefore deeply saddening to see that it is with this same inhumanity and violence that we are choosing to treat our fellow Africans.” I couldn’t agree more.
Published on Sunday April 20 in The Niche Newspaper http://www.thenicheng.com/xenophobic-republic-of-south-africa/