Something To Ponder

Something To Ponder
Xenophobic Attacks - credits: iAfrica.com

Something To Ponder

It Is Not Xenophobia

The world is shocked by events that have been unfolding in South Africa within the last two weeks.  Violence erupted in Pretoria after what some say was an attempt by taxi operators to stop drug trafficking by some foreigners with the aid of the police. One of them was single handedly trying to stop one of the traders from selling drugs when he was killed. The trader with the drugs was said to be a black foreigner. When the drivers gathered for a peaceful march against the ineffective service delivery of the police, they were met with force by the said police who fired at them. At this point, others, who were not in the taxi business, took matters in their own hands and started stoning and throwing petrol bombs at businesses owned by black foreigners. There was looting and burning of shops and beating up of the traders.

Within a few days, this same kind of violence against black shop and other business owners picked up in different parts of Gauteng. The situation soon went out of hand, whereby, some African governments led by Nigeria protested against the abuse of their citizens by the South Africans. When nothing seemed to be working, these African governments cancelled their participation to the World Economic Forum on Africa, which opened its doors in Pretoria on Tuesday. This was a big blow to the South African government. Among those countries that pulled out of the all important weeklong meeting were Nigeria, Zambia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

By Wednesday, there were reports of Nigeria citizens attacking South African businesses in the Nigerian capital Abuja and Lagos in response to what they claimed was wrongful treatment of their own in South Africa. South Africa recalled her High Commissioner to Nigeria and Nigeria recalled hers from South Africa. Zambian national football team cancelled a friendly international match against the South African team while many celebrities cancelled performances scheduled to take place in South Africa. Tensions have been high with many nations across Africa calling for a shutdown of South Africa while others are agitating for sanctions against the republic.  

There have been live videos doing rounds in the social media, of ordinary people giving their opinion of what is going on in South Africa. Many have labelled it “Xenophobic Attacks” against foreign business people. But is it really xenophobia that we are witnessing in South Africa? According to wikipedia, “Xenophobia” is the fear or hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange…”

If xenophobia is the fear or hatred of something/somebody perceived to be foreign, then why are the South African black people fighting only black traders/foreigners in their land? They are not the only foreigners within the South African borders! There are Asians, Westerners, Arabs, Chinese, Japanese and all types of foreigners from all over the world living and working in South Africa. Yet, the only foreigners these black (we must emphasize here that the attacks are perpetrated by black South Africans and not Asian, White, or South Africans of other races) South Africans are attacking, killing and burning their businesses are black like them. This does not meet the criteria for the word “xenophobia” so it must be something else.

When attacking the fellow black people from other African countries, the black South Africans claim that these people are taking their jobs and so are the reason they are poor and jobless. In one of the videos going round in social media, there is a gentleman from Nigeria who was showing his business and said he has ten employees and they are ALL South Africans. Only he, the business owner is a foreigner. Is this gentleman and others like him who employ South African even if it is one or two, taking jobs from South Africans or providing job opportunities? It is also stated elsewhere that the black foreign investors control less than 2% of the whole South African economy. The rest is in the hands of the large scale farmers, business conglomerates, miners and so on. Given this scenario, how does the black South African conclude that the source of his troubles is the fellow black African from other parts of Africa and no-one else?

When someone, say a husband works under very tough and dehumanizing conditions for a long time, they are bound to lose their self esteem and see themselves only as their oppressor sees them. Consequently, when in the presence of someone they perceive as being weaker than themselves, like their wife or children, they will act rough towards them in order to feel good and claim some of their lost self esteem. In the same way, I think the South African black person has lived under the oppression of the apartheid system for too long that they still see themselves as less of a people than they really are. They have a deep seated hatred for their race, colour, circumstances and anything that identifies them. Like the oppressed husband at work, these black South Africans feel they are only superior by a small margin to fellow black people who are trying to eke a living in South Africa. Many of these traders are without the relevant papers to live and work in South Africa and the black man knows there is really nowhere the black foreigner can take him for reprisal when they harass them.

It is the deep hatred of themselves that they have transferred to their fellow black brothers and sisters. The black South African, especially the young generation does not truly understand their history. They do not know the cost of their freedom and how they come to be living in a country where they can agitate for jobs and positions freely. They do not understand that the people they are fighting and killing, some are children and grandchildren of those who fought alongside their own freedom fighters for a free South Africa. Some of the grandfathers and fathers of the black people they are chasing away housed and hid their own fathers and grandfathers in their countries when they had to take refuge from the apartheid regime that had reduced the black South African to less than a human being.

Had they understood this, they would be welcoming their fellow black brothers and sisters with open arms not chasing, fighting and killing them. The psychological trauma on the South African populace is real and if not addressed as soon as possible, worse will follow. It is possible for the Africans to go back to their countries. Nigeria has already offered free airlifting of her citizens who are ready to leave South Africa. Others will follow suit for sure. Many countries as of Thursday had issued travel advisories to their citizens and neighbouring countries including Eswatini which is surrounded by South Africa has stopped trucks ferrying produce to South Africa from crossing over. A real shutdown of the nation is possible and can be done. Then, when this happens, who will these people blame for their woes? Will they not turn upon each other? Their anger must be vented somewhere.

What South Africa needs to ask herself is who stands to gain from all this? Who is the instigator of these attacks and what is their goal? One does not wake up one morning and decide to go after his neighbour for nothing. The root of all these troubles needs to be sought and taken care of once and for all. Could there be a link between the agitation for land reforms and what we are seeing now? Are there some people who are behind these so called ‘xenophobic attacks’ who are trying to draw the attention of the world from other more weighty matters?

Wake up South Africa and figure out what it is that is ailing you and what you are truly all about!