Blame it not on the immigrants

South Africa has been the theatre of disturbing, senseless and misguided waves of Afrophobia for a long time.

Tawanda Majoni
Tawanda Majoni

A mostly poor and unruly population has tended to vent its anger on African immigrants, blaming them for “stealing” their jobs, an upsurge in crime and all manner of other social ills. The problem, though, is that these Afrophobes are blaming the wrong people and the wrong factors for their sorry state.

Granted, the mostly socially marginalised youths who have been persecuting economic and political refugees and immigrants from other parts of the continent, chasing them away and looting their small businesses, deserve a better life in their own country. They have failed to access sufficient education, live in squalid conditions and are without jobs. However, they must not be venting their anger on the immigrants because they are not the problem.

These very Afrophobes must share the blame. How come, as has been the case in Durban where the current Afrophobic wave originated, the so-called African foreigners are preferred by employers? The plain and painful truth is that they are more hard working. No employer wants lazy people populating his shop, factory or offices.

In other words, these young men and women who have been terrorising fellow Africans must instil in themselves a spirit of hard work. The fact that South Africa is their country of birth does not give them the right to be lazy. They must wake up and smell the coffee. And that includes the likes of Goodwill Zwelithini. In any case, why is it that Somalis, Zimbabweans, Mozambicans and Ethiopians have managed to set up their own businesses ahead of the locals?

The South African foreign- haters do not seem to appreciate the real reasons why they are without jobs. Besides their own laziness, the Afrophobes ought to appreciate the fact that their post-apartheid governments, and apartheid itself, have failed to give them appropriate education and skills. President Jacob Zuma admitted as much last week. He acknowledged that his country still needed the specialised skills of other Africans.

He realises that ANC governments since 1994 have not done enough to equip citizens with relevant skills to make them marketable in industry and commerce. Black majority governments, from the time of Nelson Mandela, have hardly worked up a sweat to reverse the racist discrimination that apartheid took decades to establish and sustain. A big chunk of the buck must be dumped at the ANC’s doorstep. Cosatu, an ANC affiliate, has been trying to send this very message across for close to two decades. None, the Afrophobes included, have paid attention.

What has happened to the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) programme? Why is it that the majority of blacks in South Africa are still suffering even though the BEE initiative has been in place for so long? The plain and painful truth is that the programme has been used to benefit the rich elite of politicians, businesspeople and their cronies. It was the South Africans who coined the word “tenderpreneurship” to refer to the phenomenon of getting rich by corruptly awarding all forms of tenders. Not me, not the migrants. BEE has been used as an excuse to amass corrupt largesse by a privileged few.

These are the people that the Afrophobes should be stoning, knifing and burning with tyres. Zwelithini, the Zulu king, has not been honest enough to tell his subjects that Zuma, his village kin, is part of this corrupt web. Otherwise, how did he manage to build that gargantuan $23 million Nkandla palace in rural KwaZulu Natal, the very zone where the current Afrophobic attacks have emerged from? The foreign-haters must go and burn down that modernised Zulu kraal, not the Somali tuck shops.

Ubuntu requires that if someone storms into your home as he or she flees from his or her own house, you give them water to drink and a fire to warm them up. Most of the migrants who have decided to make South Africa their home are running away from acute problems in their own countries and they need hospitality, not hostility. They have run away from wars, hunger, joblessness and political retribution.

Given a second choice, they would rather be in their own countries. Look at Somalia. It has not had a proper government in decades and warlords are killing their own kith like flies. Look at Zimbabwe. Ninety percent of employable adults cannot get a job. Yet life has to go on and South Africa has proven to be the aquifer in the desert. Why didn’t the Afrophobes demonstrate against President Robert Mugabe when he visited recently? Like Zuma and other African leaders, he is the one who has driven millions of Zimbabwean out of sweet home.

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Post published in: Analysis

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