Wednesday, May 28, 2008

South African Xenophobia - The Aftermarth

The dust has settled in South Africa. The army has been brought in and together with strong police action; the once peaceful townships still reminds one of the “worst moment” this rainbow nation has ever experienced. It is a weird thing to come to grips with; no single South African leader has been associated with this crime against our fellow brothers and sisters. So far no single organized group with a unique identity has taken responsibility. More than 50 people have died, mostly foreigners and a few South Africans, we still do not know what triggered this seemingly organized attacks.

Our Intelligence Services claim they predicted the uprising and informed the police. The police claim the information was not substantial to warrant preemptive action, however some survivors claim that they were tipped off and escaped before the mayhem. Finally President Mbeki has addressed the nation, but many of us still wonder what exactly led to all this. Indeed, South Africa has opened a new chapter, nobody can tell how it will be concluded, I personally believe South Africa has slid down a path of no return. This nation has been deflowered; no amount of PR will bring back its innocence.

Forgive me for being a pessimist; let me state why I believe my country can never be the same again:

  • South Africa has shown that when the chips are low, it is happy to pass the blame to others.
  • The African brotherhood has been betrayed, and every South African effort to prove otherwise will always be scoffed at, after all, South Africa has proven beyond doubt that they could never be trusted by the rest of Africa and they see other Africans as a "problem".
  • The other South African minorities, Vendas, Shangaans, Whites, Indians etc can never ever feel safe nor welcome again in their own country.
  • Very soon, the middle class black South Africans will also keep wondering whether they are next, after all, they “made it” and “forgot about the poor majority” in their nice suburban houses

I keep wondering what could possibly happen to me when I go visit Malawi, Mozambique or Zimbabwe again. How will the clerk at the border look at me, will I ever be safe walking through the streets of Harare? Will Bafana Bafana, our national soccer team ever be welcome again in the DRC?

Indeed South Africa has cast a shadow over the legacy of Nelson Mandela. Giants like Julius Nyerere and Leopold Senghor of Senegal will be ashamed to see this. There is hope that the new ANC leadership will try to reverse the image of this country. I really hope and pray they do.

Thabo Mbeki will certainly go down as the man who led South Africa through some of its best and the very worst of times. I am sorry that history will remember his inability to appeal to his people and galvanize them around an ideal, his inability to rise tall above all sorts of the crisis as his defining moments. Be it HIV/AIDS, be it Zimbabwe, be it crime, be it electricity crisis, Mbeki will carry this legacy around his neck and possibly to the grave. Some of us will remember the economic boom under Mbeki, but sadly, some will point to the recent xenophobic attacks as a true reflection of his economic and political legacy.


Chambi Chachage May 30, 2008 at 8:40 AM  

Indeed nothing is never the same again. But Africa has a very strange ability of healing itself. In a way it is recuperating from Mfecane,Rwanda Genocide, Africa's World War in DRC and so on.The fact that all those so-called numerous 'tribes' have somehow managed to relatively co-exist harmoniously despite the ravages of 'divide and rule' tells us something about 'African humanism.' I don't believe we have depleted this 'Ubuntu/Ujamaa' resource.

Let us play our part in picking up our broken pieces. Surely we need a truly Pan-African Truth and Reconciliation initiative to address what we have done to one another as African brothers/sisters since the times when our chiefs and merchants of death sold our very own kith and kins into slavery!

Afrika Mayibuye!
Mungu Ibariki Afrika!

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