IT was bound to happen. It was just a matter of when and not if foreigners would be attacked in South Africa. The reason being – South Africans (not all of them of course) have always been less inclined to relate to fellow Africans whom they are known to belittle by calling them ‘makwerekwere’.
A combination of factors may explain this mindset of superiority. But ask anybody who has had contact with South Africans before or now and they will tell you that these people of the South feel superior towards fellow Africans.
A large economy and relative industrialisation have always provided comfort to South Africans’ feeling of superiority over other Africans. Ignorance and isolation could be the other reasons why South Africans believe they are above everybody else on the continent.
In some ways, South Africans are like Americans. Because of being furthest from the rest of the continent and against the backdrop of the apartheid legacy, South Africans laboured for too long under isolationism.
Ask an average black South African what Namibia’s capital is, or the name of its president, you will be surprised to note that they will perhaps not know but also care less to know despite Namibia being their former colony and immediate neighbour.
The attacks that killed over 42 foreigners at the hands of mobs of bloodthirsty South Africans are a revelation of what we have always known and that is, South Africa is a violent society. That people will hack to death and set alight other human beings just because they happen to be refugees in their country is the worst form of prejudice and human behaviour. Only animals can kill others over territorial turf.
The term xenophobia is derived from the Greek words xenos that means ‘foreigner’ or stranger and phobos meaning ‘fear.’ And the term xenophobia is typically used to describe a fear or a dislike of ‘foreigners.’
In the racist era, South Africans were known to place burning tyres around the necks of people who collaborated with apartheid forces and the manner in which ‘foreigners’ from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi lost their lives was a flashback to this sad chapter in that country’s violent history of yesteryear.
It is inexcusable to say this bout of bloodletting and the burning and looting that followed was to protest the fact that Africans take away their jobs and women. It seems the perpetrators have a short memory considering the fact that it is the same Africans whom they deride, denigrate and regard as despicable and worthless that helped them defeat the minority apartheid regime that created a very unjust society filled with resentment.
Africans from various countries risked life and limb while others paid with their lives as they joined the struggle against the injustices perpetuated by the PW Bothas and like-minded individuals who believed blacks are second-class citizens and thus deemed inferior.
That said, Africans should help others when in need because some of the asylum seekers that have flocked to South Africa are bona fide refugees who are fleeing from political persecution and hunger in their home countries and they should be protected.
Generally Africa will continue to have multitudes of exiles if it does not put its house in order. African Union members should stem this displacement of citizens by firmly addressing the root causes of the perpetual streams of refugees. One of the problems prevailing on the continent is an inequitable distribution of resources and poverty.
In South Africa there are numerous ways in which aggrieved South Africans can express their resentment of the millions of foreign nationals who have flocked to their country. Various peaceful options are open to them to sensitise their Government about their discontent at the presence of foreigners in their country.
Unleashing an orgy of violence against fellow human beings for jobs and women is not only unacceptable but a crime against humanity.