South Africa in recent years has made international headlines regarding violent outbreaks aimed at foreign nationals. This has been termed xenophobia, although I think the issues is much deeper than just a common fear of strangers.
In defence of South Africa, it is a beautiful country (in every sense of that word). Literally, the greener pasture for many Africans.
It’s Namibia’s life source – without which we cannot survive to be what we are.
It is a country of contrasts, there’s no such a thing as a South African ideology of violence towards foreigners. Regardless of its violent past, this is a country that has lived beyond the expectations of many, who wished it had failed as pretext to justify the biases that ‘Black people are incapable of self-governing.’ It’s a country that has made huge strides but also deeply affected by pre and post-apartheid challenges, which are manifesting themselves at times in unpleasant actions.
It’s easy for many to lash out from an emotional perspective, that South Africans are violent. Not to mention falling for uncritical media reports that often only show the negative bits to ingrain bias in the minds of an unjudging public.
In as much as I condemn the violence and murders, we still have to appeal to the real issues that are the root causes of this trend.
We fail to see xenophobia where it is and mistake criminal activities by giving them wrong labels. In so doing we don’t unravel the underlying issues that continue to fuel these kinds of barbaric acts. What do I think are some of the key problems?
First, not excusing the South African public of their civil responsibilities, I take the issue to be a leadership failure. The outbreaks of violence which target foreign nationals is but evidence of a frustrated public. A public whose expectations have continuously been dashed and ignored at the expense of sustaining a new political elitism of the ANC.
A country with so much potential which Zuma’s administration has ravaged with unprecedented impunity, nearly to a point of collapse.
The South African government has turned to the techniques of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, overpromising the public but failed to deliver.
A leadership that created high expectations but failed to create better structures and systems that would improve the living conditions of ordinary people.
The public education and health care systems have been diluted in quality, unemployment keeps rising and living standards become costlier.
The gap between the rich and poor ever increasing such that the poor who are often unskilled cannot access any decent employment, even domestic jobs are vanishing.
Secondly, there is a general increase in hopelessness and powerlessness as systems are failing to deliver for the ordinary people.
Not to mention to protect the domestic markets so that they would serve to benefit the locals. As a result, foreign nationals are operating spaza and general dealer shops, vending on the streets, operating shuttles and taxis etc (similar issue in Namibia).
This shouldn’t be, in as much as we stand in solidarity with fellow Africans, we can’t think that everything should be for takes when it comes to South Africa.
This is failure and local government level to implement proper control measures of the domestic economics.
Those migrating to South Africa, like with any other country should bring specialised skills to the country and not be taking up domestic jobs.
Else, such should apply for refugee statuses and remain within the confined spaces according to the laws of South Africa.
Thirdly, we need to place the blame on African countries whose failed leadership has led their own citizens into exile to fight for bread.
Particular cases of Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Nigeria, in as much as we’re speaking and wishing for Africa’s integration, we can’t expect that South Africans should bear the socio-economic brunt of other nations’ failures.
In as much as this is a painful reality, it’s realities that are hurting the domestic progress of the South African society, forcing them to live with problems they didn’t cause.
Here is a collective failure of African nations which think that their citizens can simply run off to South Africa, make a living and send the money home. There is no justice in such parasitic structures, it’s damaging the South African domestic economy.
In conclusion, I don’t expect that many would agree with my view on the matter.
However, I firmly believe that there is need to acknowledge that South Africans don’t have an inborn culture of violence. It’s only fair that we inspect things and conditions that trigger violent reactions.
I only wish that there were existing functional structures that would allow the public to vent their frustrations instead of lashing it out on fellow humans. If we ever thought that leadership failure is a small matter, we should all learn our lessons soon to avoid similar encounters here at home.
Disclaimer: These are my own opinions and do not represent the views of my employer or its associates.