After all the weeping and wailing is done, we need to be objective about the events in South Africa that are affecting non-South African Africans. The on-going xenophobic crisis has consumed the lives of relatives, friends, workmates, neighbours and fellow Africans and many have suffered gross dehumanisation just for being aliens in a foreign land. Xenophobia and its manifestation through brutal physical attacks are an inhuman crime against humanity and a step back to barbarism. They are a modern-day unAfrican human cannibalism premised on the dead self-consciousness of our people. I can go on forever describing the grotesque nature of the xenophobic attacks or as some have chosen to call it, ‘afrophobia.’ I am sure most comrades will hate me after this, but truth be told the on-going xenophobia in South Africa is warranted. At some point I thought we should do the same to South Africans in Zimbabwe and something hit me: my mother’s South African citizenship! Hence if I were to initiate any vengeance for the brutality inflicted on our kith and kin I would have to cut my mother’s throat first. If I was in South Africa and one of my maternal relatives was part of the xenophobic massacre team would he have burnt me to ashes?
First of all, the radical condemnation of the xenophobia from Zimbabwe is a reflection of how we suffer from selective national and Pan-African amnesia starting from our political elites to the ordinary citizens. Only yesterday it was justified when Gukurahundi hit Matebeleland and Mashonaland. To the political elites of the time who ignited this project that led to the massacre of 20000, this was restoring order and sanity as opposed to the dissident disorder. Why are we raising our voices now that the South Africans are doing the same in their country today?
Today the ordinary Zimbabwean is complaining about what South Africans are doing, but we are the same individuals who have failed to bring our government to book for the Gukurahundi massacres. We ALSO failed to protest against the election violence in the country since 2000. Now that violence has taken a new shape, in a different environment (South Africa) against some Zimbabweans also similar to those who died in election violence since 2000 we decide to voice our opinions. Why are we conscious of an evil committed by a neighbour and fear to condemn the same evil in our land? We are cowards for only being conscious of inhumanity when ordinary citizens of another country are perpetuating it and yet we are afraid to condemn our own government when it commits similar, if not worse, crimes against humanity. We fear so much that we take every opportunity to throw tantrums at those far from reach and show docility to the close harmful sources of our dire human existence. What a shame Zimbabwe!
We also forget that when we took the farms we were responding to our personal appetite to partake of our national cake and achieving the ‘real-Chimurenga.’ We all applauded the “Hondo yeminda” and took the farms. By ‘we,’ I am referring to our war veterans who were the voice of national renaissance then and to be precise a national renaissance that was purely Black. Then is it wrong when South Africans decide to have their wealth and do not want to share it with any person from a different nation. It is their right to want to be docile to the Whiteman because that is how far they subscribe to the principle of racial inclusion. It’s their sovereign discretion after all! They have been politically socialised to co-exist with the murderers of their forefathers and former oppressors in the name of reconciliation and creating a rainbow nation that has a phobia against other Africans. It is funny how one chooses to fear a man like him and take pride in co-existing with another who is not like him in terms of history and race. That is the dilemma of the rainbow South Africa.
These are the same Zimbabweans who were not courageous enough to stand up against the status-quo and challenge it. Their only way out was to find habitation in other people’s countries with their own problems as well. I am not saying it is a wrong thing to go and live in another country in search of human developmental prospects. However, a majority of these people were just surviving from hand to mouth in South Africa, surviving on meagre incomes and trivial occupational statuses. Hence I label them as, ‘irrelevant’ foreigners. To some extent irrelevant even at home where their absence was a pitfall to the expected democratic transition in the era of crisis endured by their compatriots at home. Those foreigners in high places of economic contribution in South Africa are not affected by the xenophobic violence. The greater magnitude of the prevailing violence is in the slums. These are the same spaces were you find so-called illegal immigrants. These are the epi-centres of crime. Therefore because these are high crime zones such anarchy was inevitable.
Is xenophobia an economic and immigration issue?
Not that I am a proponent of the rigid migration laws in Africa which most Pan-Africanists like me condemn, but without legal entry and taking account of immigration issues how can resource management facilities be put in place to cater for population growth in a host country. During such emotion-evoking times we are quick to sideline the history we have with South Africa in our time of crisis. South Africa accommodated hard-working Zimbabweans into their country through programmes such as providing for the Zimbabwean Special Dispensation Permit. In all that bolt-loosening poverty and sometimes ignorance to migration laws forced certain individuals go to South Africa illegally. This is why the common person in South Africa assumes that the foreigners are the reason for the loadshedding and the new water crisis. Truth be told, some Zimbabweans that are vulnerable to xenophobia in South Africa are there illegally. As such the ordinary and poor South African has taken it upon himself to act on behalf of the state. Remember this kind of South African is not employed in his own country and unlike the Zimbabwean he has no other country to run to. Therefore this explains why he has time to beat up this Zimbabwean he sees as the reason for his fate.
What is happening in South Africa is a manifestation of the ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed.’ The Black South African has no one he can turn to and express his misery about his economic marginalisation because Boers still have power in his own ‘free’ country. He is haunted by aggressive chants of the song ‘Not yet Uhuru’ in his mind and the noise of that song in his ears is the reason why he decides to inflict pain on the fellow African. He wants to be like the Boer and as such he has no outlet for his anger except the defenseless foreigner. He feels by dehumanising the foreigner he is gaining his humanity still downtrodden in the holocaust of the guised apartheid systems in his land.
Zimbabwe and South Africa have proved to be irresponsible fathers at the expense of their own Children who find themselves in a regional ‘House of Hunger’ stalemate.
Zimbabwe, you have failed to create policies that benefit your citizens and today they find themselves going through a worse dehuminisation than what they fought against before 1980. You need to realise that when you say you are designing policies for your people you mean it. National policies are for the good of the ordinary citizens and not political elites. You should have known that by now instead of waiting for South Africa to express disgruntlement for your failures to be a responsible father.
South Africa, you forget that at some point you were a burden to all African countries. They all treated you so well in your time of crisis and embraced you as a last born of the continent. Is this your way of paying back? Being reluctantly reactionary to the death of the Children of your brother Zambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Somalia. After all, what goes around comes back around.
Nevertheless let this be a reminder to all the countries with victimised citizens that the time is now to make way for the return of your children. Mayibuye iAfrica!
Richard is a self-proclaimed pan-Africanist and the author of Pan-Africanism from the Cradle, the Present and the Future.