I am trying to wrap my mind around the complex and bizarre xenophobic attacks in South Africa perpetrated by a small, but scary section of the population . The why, the why, the why … it just doesn’t add up.
I know we Africans are as different as the languages we speak and the cultures we represent, but I assumed that we were united by the brotherhood of a continent in upheaval and the spirit of ubuntu.
Now, I just don’t know.
When I first visited Johannesburg in 1999 as a young reporter covering the All Africa Games, the general dislike of Africans from outside South Africa was evident in some sections of the society. I was told by several black South Africans about how Nigerians were the cause of the rising drug abuse in the country, how gangs of Zimbabweans – even before the economic crisis there – were behind gun crime, how Mozambicans were pests. However I did not witness any blatant acts of xenophobia.
Or maybe I did. Maybe the seeds of the past 10 days of violence were sown more than a decade ago.
I don’t know.
I don’t understand the link many people are making regarding social injustice in South African townships and xenophobia.
A blogger from the Foreign Policy Institute blames the xenophobia on “growing food insecurity in the nation, a broken system for handling refugees and total failure of Mbeki’s government to seek political solutions to the crisis in Zimbabwe.” Justin Hartman concurs in his post titled “State of the Nation: Fucked.” He says the xenophobic attacks are a culmination of years of suppressed anger and frustration towards Government’s lack of providing and delivery of promises made.
Michael T, writing on the Political Blog, says “once again, just as the recent electricity supply fiasco this government has failed to heed the warnings so clearly seen in the townships and on the streets on South Africa, where millions of people have been robbed of a future they were promised. This is only the beginning; the worst is yet to come.”
I don’t care the fact that the violence directed at fellow African migrants is by a tiny group of South Africans, it nonetheless highlights the unwillingness of the larger population to stand up and defend their values by being silent for so damn long.
Angry African is ashamed. “Ashamed of being a South African. Ashamed of the behavior of my countrymen. Ashamed of South Africans. Ashamed of South Africa. And every South African should be. Be ashamed.”
Outside the blogosphere, other South Africans seem equally horrified by the xenophobia. DJ Sbu of YFM this week led a demonstration through the East Rand calling for people not to turn against ‘their brothers’.
As for me, highlighting the work of others is all I can do because … I just don’t know.