Thursday, April 16, 2015

Join Together

Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko said during a briefing on the attacks, "It is African-on-African. It is not on other nationalities." The fact that foreign nationals from Pakistan and Bangladesh have been profiled in this wave of attacks, it will soon no longer be enough for South Africans to cry “Afrophobia.”

Africans, who supported the country's liberation, are being rewarded with beatings and burnings. A disappointing failure of the African solidarity. Immigrants are blamed for taking jobs and opprtunities from locals. Many of them have been forced to close their shops. Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini  said that foreigners should "pack their bags" and many of those rioting were heard chanting "the king has spoken". Migrants are being rounded up and some burnt alive - including a child. In another a man is dragged on the streets naked and then stoned. They are calling fellow Africans “kwerekwere”. Pejoratively, the term “foreigner” in South Africa usually refers to African and Asian non-nationals.

The press didn't help any. The country's largest weekly screamed that there were 8 million illegal immigrants. Statistics that have yet to be substantiated. Other papers, relieved that Black people were now being seen as bigots, become the champions of the poor downtrodden Africans. This narrow-mindedness, suffered by both black and white South Africans, is a by-product of apartheid. For black people, apartheid was an insidious tool used to induce self-hate and tribalize people of the same race. For white South Africans, apartheid was a false rubber-stamp of the white race as superior. It is these two conceptions that gave rise to the myth that South Africa is not part of the African continent, but a different place that just happens to be on the tip of the continent. Long after the scourge of apartheid, it is also clear that we’re fueling this prejudice in the present.

White expats in South Africa don't get accused of stealing jobs. Foreigners—particularly those from the Americas and Europe go unnoticed—they are often lumped up with “tourists,” or even better, referred to as “expats.” It is this reason why the South African government says its hesitant to call the recent attacks on foreign nationals as xenophobic

In the mining cities and towns the problem has been there for much longer. Workers have been imported from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Swaziland to work in mines for over 50 years. When workers came to the cities to work, they were segregated according to community. For a long time there weren't any problems. Then the layoffs started. Gold prices plummeted, recession hit. The riots and upheavals of the 80s encouraged the mining houses to invest more in foreign labour. South Africans were 'troublesome'. As workers across the country started to unionise, labour from nearby countries became more attractive. They didn't strike. They would accept less wages. They were docile. They could be deported.

South Africa’s xenophobia reflects the country’s history of isolation. As a country at the southern-most tip of Africa, South Africans are fond of referring to their continental counterparts as “Africans” or “people from Africa.” Many business ventures, news publications and events—aimed at local audiences—routinely speak about “going to Africa.”

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