Saturday, April 18, 2015

We all belong

National-chauvinism is rearing its ugly head in almost every sector of South African society. The thing with national-chauvinism is that it is in permanent need of scapegoats. It starts with those who are not our kin. But, very quickly, it turns fratricidal. It does not stop with "these foreigners". No amount of national-chauvinism can erase the fact that no African is a foreigner in Africa; despite our foolish national boundaries, Africa is where we all belong.

It starts with the usual stereotypes - they steal our jobs; they do not respect us; they are darker than us; they are used by whites who prefer to exploit them rather than employing us.

The South African government has recently taken a harsh stance on immigration. New, draconian measures have been passed into law. Their effects are devastating for people already established here legally. Work permits not renewed. Visas refused to family members. Children in limbo in schools. A Kafka-esque situation that extends to "foreign" students who entered the country legally, had their visas renewed all this time, but who now find themselves in a legal uncertainty - unable to register, and unable to access the money they are entitled to and that had been allocated to them by foundations. Through its new anti-immigration measures, the government is busy turning previously legal migrants into illegal ones.

Instead of spilling black blood we should all be making sure that we rebuild this continent and bring to an end a long and painful history.

By Achille Mbembe, a research professor in history and politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (Wiser).

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