Xenophobia, Trigger of Wars, Roars in South Africa
This hub is an installment of the series 'Noteworthy Trend of Events in South Africa'.
Xenophobia, the trigger of wars, roars again
A group of angry people managed to send shock waves through South Africa when they demonstrated the horror of Xenophobia again.
Where were they in 2008, when forty-one foreign nationals and twenty-one South Africans had died in less than a month due to xenophobia?
On February 24th, 2017, the shops and houses of foreign nationals were again looted and set alight. Police had to use stun grenades, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse angry citizens and foreigner nationals. At least 137 people were arrested in less than 24 hours.
South Africans are accusing legal and illegal foreign nationals of -
- Stealing jobs and business opportunities that ‘belong’ to South Africans;
- Receiving government houses when poor South Africans were first on the waiting list;
- Being involved in human trafficking, the running of (illegal) brothels, and the selling of drugs and (stolen) guns.
Of course, these accusations are not sucked from South Africans' thumbs. During the past twenty odd years large numbers of immigrants from specific countries distinguished themselves as experts in specific crimes, or as favorites of specific employers, to such an extent that foreign nationals are now all being regarded as threats.
The Coalition of Civics against Xenophobia - a group of about two-hundred immigrants from various countries, as well as anti-xenophobic South Africans - took exception to the fact that all immigrants are being lumped together. “We came to South Africa to try and make a living,” said the leader of the group on March 9th, when the group marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to deliver a memorandum to the Presidency, which outlines demands for new and strengthened measures to prevent crime against foreigners and their businesses. They also demand an investigation against Johannesburg' Mayor for alleged anti-immigrant statements.
The Presidency, however, refused to accept the memorandum because the march was deemed illegal. The organizers denied that their march had not been granted permission. They now regard the behavior of the Presidency as a sign that the ANC, President Zuma and the entire government are xenophobic.
President Zuma denies xenophobia
These clashes between South Africans and foreign nationals are being regarded as the manifestation of xenophobia - the fear/hate of foreigners/strangers.
Between 2000 and March 2008 - a period of eight years - an estimated 67 people died in what were identified as xenophobic attacks. Then came the most serious outbreak in May 2008 when 62 people (42 foreign nationals and 21 South Africans) died in less than a month.
But President Zuma denied that Xenophobia has anything to do with all of this violence!
“I think we love using phrases in South Africa that at the time cause unnecessary perceptions about us. I think we are not [xenophobic]… the [current] violence is really about crime.” - President Zuma.
The President told South Africans that the issues of Europeans and Americans towards and against refugees from Muslim countries are in fact also a fear and hate of strangers cum foreigners, but they don't call it xenophobia.
“To attach this label, ‘xenophobic’, results in many instances of us not understanding this issue…. and the source of this issue,” said former President Thabo Mbeki (now Chancellor of the University of South Africa) to a gathering of high-level African leaders in Johannesburg. This was also his belief in 2007 when he was the president.
This time, however, he didn't manage to convince all the leaders at the gathering. He was confronted and compelled to pour oil on troubled waters by scheduling another meeting to continue discussions.
"[Then] I would like us to meet because it could be that you will teach me something I don’t know about my own people. I will [may] learn something that I don’t know about myself. Xenophobia, crime, racism is bad!” - Former President Thabo Mbeki
Repercussions of xenophobia in South Africa
A demonstration of protest staged at South Africa’s embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, and an attack on South Africa’s MTN offices, as well as threats on social media from citizens of other African countries, aroused concern about South Africans living and working in other countries of Africa.
A civil society organisation in Nigeria - ‘The National Association of Liberation Tigers (NALT) - appealed to African leaders to urgently find solution to the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. “The attacks could destabilize the continent if left unchecked,” warned the organisation’s director of mobilizer and communications.
President Zuma undertook to compile a report about the challenges faced, including insights about thoughts and behaviors of the South African people.
At a news conference in Cape Town, the Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, told journalists that Government is committed to improving the management of migration.
The opinion of an owfma-sa
The opinion of a well-known African actor, whose name will remain anonymous, gave wings to my thoughts.
“People are killing each other for a lame reason like taking their jobs. You will find that always they are at the corners of the streets doing nothing. They have never even tried to do something for their life but they just want somebody to put blame on… Imagine if there is a music festival in Nigeria and the Nigerians say we don’t want anything to do with South Africans.”
Of course, also this actor is accused of 'lumping people together'. In reality most of those who are at the corners of the streets doing nothing would love to have a job, or a business of their own, having tried to obtain work in vain. Almost 30% of South Africans are unemployed. The province with the highest unemployment rate is the North West - a whopping 64.6%!
In the far past battles and wars between nations were the order of the day. Becoming a soldier, sometimes even before the age of eighteen, was compulsory. That a young man was sacrificing his freedom and risking his health and life for nation and homeland, were facts that would shape him into a proud and confident adult. Through sufferings he obtained wisdom, and also a healthy yearning for peace and happiness. He obtained gratitude for being alive and for having the power to protect the lives of others. By the end of his military service, the survivor was either ruined for life and ready to keep himself intoxicated with one or another addictive activity or substance, or totally fed-up with drama, violence and blood-shed and ready to live in peace and harmony for the rest of his life.
At present in South Africa, military service is a chosen job like the police force, and can accommodate only a limited number of young people who have a natural yearning for violence. Opportunities for those who prefer a less dramatic vocation are also limited. Consequently, thousands, if not millions, of young, energetic men (and women) in South Africa are unemployed, bored, and eager to participate in any exciting activity.
Unfortunately, marching in the streets, burning tires on the highway, throwing stones at ‘enemies’, or wreaking any havoc that might satisfy their hunger-bitten needs and wants, seem to be the only options for the majority of South Africa’s youth.
In the meantime government officials live and work in extreme luxury, and drive from one meeting to the other in the most expensive cars just to determine who should be suspended for the umpteenth case of incompetence and corruption that’s being exposed by the media.
Enough said! After all, I am only an owfma-sa – an ordinary white female middle-aged South African who should rather stick to knitting socks instead of reading news reports.