The recent violence against black Africans in South Africa is another clear example of how far that country still has to go in many areas.
King Goodwill Zwelithini must be sanctioned and take responsibility for his statements, which are not only irresponsible but show a lack of appreciation of the causes of socio-economic problems being faced by black South Africans. The ghost of abuse of blacks during apartheid has reared its head once more in the way they seek to address their problems through violence. Killing foreigners will not create jobs or improve conditions.
Firstly there is an obvious economic problem where thousands of youths are unemployed. This means that frustrations are high and any excuse to escape that reality will be welcome and expressed through violence as we have seen. Violence is the means to the end for many South Africans and this phenomenon has much to do with their history. Despite the façade of development, the mental scars of abuse during the apartheid era have certainly not been healed.
Secondly there is lack of appreciation by many young South Africans of the history of the struggle against apartheid and the role played by Africans. Many of them have never been outside their country. During my time there, I found that those who had travelled outside the country had a better grasp of issues and were more understanding and tolerant.
Third there this stupid tendency of black South Africans to view other Africans as foreigners – yet they do not label whites the same. This includes the police, who would sooner harass a black foreigner than a white foreigner. The issue of education and literacy plays a very big part. South Africans in general are still colonised in their minds.
They still feel entitled to freebies from the government and forget that it is the hard working population, including immigrants, that provides the taxes for their government to afford their grants. Tell me what sane society destroys clinics and the infrastructure that is built to serve them?
Funny enough, we have not seen black South Africans protesting against the many white criminal syndicates that are involved in serious crimes and are doing serious damage to communities through drugs and prostitution. In fact it appears that money can buy you immunity from the authorities. The case of the late police commissioner, Jackie Selebi, comes to mind where the head of the police collaborated with crime syndicates. That is the rot that must be dealt with.
The issue of a corrupt police is major problem that dis-empowers them to deal effectively with crime. That surely is not the fault of the illegal immigrants?
Having said the above, I must admit that there are many good decent South African blacks who are against what is happening and we have seen them go to the streets to protest. It is always the fringe marginalised communities that cause problems.
The comments by Zuma’s son are correct but mistimed. Illegal immigrants cannot be welcome but that must apply to all illegal immigrants and the system must deal with that fairly and humanely. Beating up other Africans will not create jobs for South African blacks. It’s a childish and stupid reaction to what is a major problem within the region.
The root of the problem is political instability and lack of economic development in the rest of Africa. Organisations such as the African Union and SADC are failing to deal with skewed developmental patterns on the continent. These problems are causing millions of Africans to migrate to economies such as South Africa that are perceived as free.
The many Zimbabweans in South Africa are not there by choice but through lack of employment opportunities at home. We know that South Africa has contributed to that problem by not dealing honestly with Zimbabwe’s political problems when they had a chance to do so during the Mbeki era. They now face the delayed consequences of their lack of leadership.
I am quite impressed by the recent response of Africans to xenophobia or afrophobia. I wish they would take the same approach to every country where we have oppressive regimes. As Africans we tend not to appreciate our interconnectedness. We have left our politicians to do as they please as they hide under the skirt of sovereignty.
I predict that this will not be the end of it. In my view South African leadership, like Zimbabwe, is failing to appreciate and build on what it has inherited from apartheid. Instead we will see the destruction of a robust economic system through incompetence, corruption, patronage and the tendency of blacks to find it easier to destroy than to build. That remains the curse of Africa’s liberation struggle political parties which we have seen throughout the continent.
It is going to get worse before it gets better. – Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You can contact him at [email protected]Post published in: Analysis