RSA Xenophobia: tears, ashes and ingratitude

22 Apr


The pain of those images coming out of South Africa is unbearable. Watching people so closely linked suck life out of another brother or sister is a shock.

This is all happening in a nation that owes its freedom to the neighbourliness of the countries around it. An entire continent in fact. A nation whose umbilical cord is so linked to Africa’s history and heritage. You only have to listen to some of their languages or indeed the national anthem to appreciate this fact.
But now we see flesh burning, bones broken with rocks and people battered to pulp. Why? Because they are foreigners in that land…the same status South Africans had when their home knew no peace. 
When I first heard the report on these attacks, I downplayed it assuming it was a one-off that would be explained as some drunken mistake in a compound. 
But then it continued and reality dawned that Africa had a huge problem. Fueled by amnesia. A problem that in 2008 reared its head . About 60 lives were lost then when xenophobic attacks surfaced in South Africa. Another 4 people died in attacks on foreign shops in January this year. 

Now this atrocious evil has come to life again this April with about 7 people reported dead, including South Africans (how ironic). 
But we all wonder what has changed. And indeed we seek to know, what has happened in South Africa?
A great man departs
Perhaps in Madiba’s demise, we had seen the end of South Africa’s rainbow beauty. 
He had been the symbol of unity, restraint and reconciliation. He believed in it, suffered for it and because of that commitment, the nation held together.
But now it may appear that long walk was a lonely one too. The bulk of the nation perhaps did not walk with him, did not believe with him and were not ready to sacrifice as he and his compatriots did. Of course, that cannot be a sweeping statement labelling all South Africans as such.
However, it is clear some held back only as a mark of respect for what Madiba had done for the country.
Even though restrained collectively, the volcano had been simmering underneath. Ready to erupt and spit out its hot spew. And now the world can see the rot so perfectly disguised over the years. Right from prominent members of society to the shacks. It is evident that some underlying issues have not been dealt with as yet. 
This is the classic failure of a nation. A nation that has departed from its history and chosen to forget where it has come from. 
What some feared would happen post Mandela’s death has began to show. Now louder and deadlier than ever. This once beautiful nation with abundant potential is now easily collapsing to its knees as blacks kill blacks. Africans killing Africans. How heart-wrenching. 
Without a doubt, there are good South Africans who do not endorse this primitivity and arrogance. But as evil’s nature may be, the good is usually overshadowed. There remains a lot to be done to stamp this out and put the perpetrators in place.
This is the challenge the good South Africans face. The burden on the shoulders of the nation’s leaders. 
And the call to deal with the real issue(s) that will not just evaporate into submission and oblivion.
When leadership fails to inspire
An influential figure, King Goodwill Zwelithini of the Zulu, has been widely quoted in the media for allegedly stating that foreigners should pack and go. 
The President’s son, Edward Zuma, was also said to have made a statement bordering on being alarming. This has, with great difficulty, been justified as not being xenophobic but reported out of context. 
The number of scandals associated with politicians has also consistently been in the news. This is especially the case for the top citizen,  the President himself. The massive Nkandla estate is undoubtedly a statue of leadership shortcomings.
The foregoing really highlights a huge challenge emanating from the leadership realm. Careless and irresponsible statements, luxurious tastes and the seemingly “usual” failed leadership without notable direction. 
These without needing much thought or debate have contributed to what we see today. A nation that had hope and dreamed before, is now despondent. 
The incidents may be localised in one or two areas reported so far. But it could be the signs of birth pains, problems that lie ahead for this nation. Demons they must face urgently today and not tomorrow.
But to deal with this mess requires inspirational leadership, brutal honesty and a citizenry ready to face the harsh reality of their situation and what they must do.
Right frustrations, wrong enemy

And this is precisely what has not happened with those perpetrating this violence. Yes they are frustrated about some things. Yes they may be unhappy about their household or national economic situation. Yes some of the dreams they had have not materialised.

It is absolutely commendable that these South Africans realise this and are expressing their unhappiness.

However, they now attack the wrong enemy. Their energy is expended on the wrong target. It is not the foreigners at fault. In fact, it is not the foreigner that has sweated to set up a shop in the community that is to blame. The one who also struggles in his(her) own way to make a decent living.

It is not that able foreign African who realises they must work to sustain their lives. The one who has commandeered their entrepreneurial self to survive, the one who has pursued education to equip themselves with knowledge and build a career. 

This is a blatant fact those ignorant and violent South Africans must face. Those South Africans shallow enough to kill their own blood in misguided and emotional attacks.

Yes some of these foreigners are in RSA illegally. That too has a process to help deal with. The legality and status of anyone has a process provided for within the confines of the law. Anything done outside the laws has never been successful at all. It is a sure recipe for anarchy, chaos and destruction. 

Let the law deal with the illegal Africans. No one must ever be a law unto themselves and administer it as they deem fit.
Laziness and entitlement mindset
The real issue must be faced. The truth must be told. 
What is that truth? It is that these South Africans that are burning their brothers and sisters are lazy. 
They are crippled by the mindset of entitlement. Believing that since they are now “free”, they deserve everything they put a hand up for without a sweat.
This is the arrogance we now see that penalises those that are working to provide for their lot. It defies logic to assume that because one is foreign, they are illegal in that land. That they can be of no economic benefit. 
Some of the foreigners in South Africa today actually add more value to the country’s economy than the locals. That is a fact that cannot be disputed and holds true in most countries and not just South Africa. Afterall, are we not in a global village?
When history is forgotten
What is happening in South Africa is painful and sad reading for a continent emerging as a potentially huge economic power. It is bad publicity and just what cynics would love to tell a depressing African story.
Is this what the continent’s rebranding journey should face? Surely not.
We are here because some people have opted for ignorance over progress. 
Those people that have chosen to forget their history and throw it out completely. Either because they do not value it at all or they have never known in full.
Where South Africa has come from, what its leaders have fought for and the contribution of other African nations, is prominently available in history. 
The challenge we now have and each country must take, is that no nation must allow its history to die. Or to be adulterated by opportunists and economic snipers with their selfish motives. 
History must live on even generations after its makers are long gone. It must have a life of its own, well chronicled and deliberately shared with all generations. 
What we now see in South Africa is the fruit of a nation that has detached itself from its history. One that has no appreciation of how it was helped to get to where it is. A people puffed up with pride, believing what they are and have is their own work. All else and all others matter less.
It is those South Africans that have no sense of their past that now burn others alive. That pummel other Africans with bricks as though they were crashing an adder. The heartless ones who sadly have African blood flowing in their veins but think less of other Africans.
Who loses out in the end?
It is the nation that neglects its history. The people who have no respect for why Mandela made it a point to extensively visit African nations after his release. 
Those people whose stupidity and shallow humanity overwhelms ubuntu and the community Africa has laboured to build through sweat, blood and sacrifice. Losers who do not deserve to even be called Africans.
Imagine for a second if Africa had not opened its doors to South Africans during the Apartheid era?
If African nations responded now by lashing out at South Africans or anything South African?
If this reality is not fully grasped by these few good for nothing South Africans, the nation faces a bleak future. One of a nation run down with a tattered reputation, damaged infrastructure and strained relationships. An nation detached from its neighbours. A shameful black sheep and member of the community.
The truly African and decent citizens of this rainbow nation must rise to the challenge. To defeat the evil and ignorant lot that are determined to destroy all the progress made over the decades. 
There have been enough tears and so many ashes already to let any ingratitude cost more lives.
  1. For now our prayer is that “Nkosi sikeleli SOUTH AFRICA”.
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Posted by on April 22, 2015 in Leadership, Opinion, Politics, Social


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