“XENOPHOBIA IN SA”: Afrikans outside South Afrika – please read this post trying to explain the issue of “Xenophobic violence”

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xenophobia

Pre-text: I am receiving a lot of complaints and concerns from Afrikans across the continent and Diaspora, as it appears that “all South Afrikans” endorse the violence against other Afrikans. We are aware that many are speaking up, marching and getting involved to find solutions – but I must say TOO MANY are sheepishly quiet, shockingly ignorant (some are even in denial) and not doing much to take a strong stance on this crisis. Social media might be “just talk”, but it has some impact and – if nothing else – Afrikans across the world NEED to see THE MAJORITY of South Afrikans articulating their disgust with the ongoing attacks. South Afrika, the Afrikan world is fed up with what is increasingly seen as South Afrikan arrogance, loss of historical memory and human character. Black silence = Black death. So keep using your voices, phones, keyboards and fists to stand up. It matters!

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A BRIEF ATTEMPT TO EXPLAIN WHAT IS GOING ON IN SA AT THE MOMENT

To Afrikans outside South Afrika – I’m sure you are asking yourself: What is happening in SA right now? You probably hear/see reports about violent clashes, burning of houses and attacks on innocent people. Black South Afrikans attacking Afrikans from other countries. Our family and close friends have not been directly affected, but it is are literally taking place just few blocks down from our house. And in certain areas this increases and decreases in intensity all around the year. Media is not doing us justice. They decide when (and when not) to make this “trend”. Actually, this nightmare is with us every single day (in different ways), and then it escalates to higher levels at times, like now. This is a devastating time. And it’s a long and complicated story.

There are no excuses or valid explanations for this. But it has a lot to do with SA’s unresolved past, the extreme inequalities that exist and the boiling anger that is under the skin of many S.Afrikans. SA is often portrayed internationally as a success-story where the ghosts of the past have been put to rest and where most people now have a more stable income and can enjoy a relatively functional democracy. WRONG!

The basic scenario is as follows: For the majority of South Afrikans, life is a constant fight of impossibilities, having VERY little to sustain life. And, having been promised for 25 years that everything will change. The exploited masses have been underpaid and over-enslaved for such a long time that it is “normal”. The government has promised major improvements in regards to employment, housing and public services. Some has been done, but many communities are still in desperate needs. The disparities between have’s and have-not’s are The psyche of many S’Afrikans have been corrupted and lack the necessary entrepreneurial vision and energy to create a functional “sub-economy” of self determination. There is a high level of violence in the communities – as part of daily life.

Many people are moving to South Afrika from other countries (attracted by the notion that in SA everyone can make a living….), and mostly the big cities – Johannesburg and Pretoria are seen to be places to find a source of income and send money back home. Due to the cultural legacy of Apartheid, most S’Afrikans have an inborn skepticism to other Black “foreigners” (this was well internalized as Apartheid-regime set one Black language group up against another Black language group within S’Afrika over many decades – serving now as a separation template between S’Afrikans and non-S’Afrikan Black people).

People who come from other Afrikan countries with little finance, can only find a place to live in communities that are already impoverished. And, here, the battle for survival is HARSH. As people who do not speak a S’Afrikan language and mostly rely on linking up with their own nationality/language group when they arrive, become “foreigners” – i.e. seen as a threat and a danger. People who come with the intention of living in SA for a few years (to raise finance) have a completely different motivation and energy than SA’s who have been at the bottom of society for generations. So, when poor SA’s see “foreigners” who are getting richer, are able to buy houses, drive cars and sustain businesses – they become even MORE of a threat. Now, next to all of this, there are also criminal elements (as we know, crime lives nicely in already impoverished and “lawless” communities).

We also know that crime is big business and is orchestrated by people on higher level using people on the ground, so that they will never be caught themselves. The people on higher level, obviously, are looking for street-soldiers who are brave, fearless and innovative in how to maximize profit from drugs, prostitution and other criminal activities. And, when crime pays, we know that many of our people will be “attracted” to it, as it actually offers big money – which again gives access to big lifestyles (although nowhere near the riches pulled by those who are actually pulling the strings). Some people from other Afrikan countries (mixed with some SA’s) will take the risk and create a career within crime.

If you dont know the bigger story, you can then go through certain sections of town and observe “many Nigerians” or “many Zimbabweans” involved in drugs and prostitution. Naturally, Nigerians employ other Nigerans and Zimbabweans employ other Zimbabweans. This makes it look solely like a Nigerian problem or as if Zimbabweans are the worst criminals (of course, the truth is that only few in the Nigerian community, the Zimbabwean community etc etc are actually involved in crime). Since many non-SA feel unsafe with SA’s (due to violent attacks mounted against “foreigners”), they set up shops next to people of their own nationality, stay close to each other and operate support networks with each other. This is what is meant when SA’s claim that “Nigerians are taking our jobs” etc. Of course, it is not true. Also, the allegations that “all these foreigners are here illegally” has another side; getting papers in SA is an absolute night mare. Systems are incredibly slow and people queue for years on years, as regulations change and the service stations are messed up. This means that many people do not have official papers, due to slow systems.

Back to the point that to some non-South Afrikans, crime becomes the only option. Now, many “regular South Afrikans”, who do not take into account what I have explained here, face living conditions where they (on top of struggling with housing, water, sanitation etc) now also see their own children and youth being lured into criminal lifestyles that seem to be run by “foreigners”. Remember what I said about the SA psyche. With these scenarios added, rage starts to build up due to the powerlessness experienced. And, often, when people are powerless, they need a scapegoat. And they need an outlet. Being upset at government doesn’t really work (although there are many protest rallies against non-existing government services, too). Being upset with other people who are equally powerless appears to work. So hysteria develops and what has started as legitimate concerns develop to devastating thirst for blood. Reason is erased and marches take the form of hooliganism. People agitate and a spirit of craziness erupts where outcries like “kill them” and “get them out” becomes choruses.

This is how some shops of “foreigners” are burnt (some may have been used for criminal activities, but many innocent people are harmed in such raids too). In addition to what may have been started by incensed SA community residents, there are SA criminals and “lose elements” who join these marches and escalates the levels of disgruntlement and anger to insane proportions. Such rallies end up being unbelievably violent and meaningless. It is actually scary.

I insist to call this AFRIPHOBIC violence, not Xenophobia. Xenophobia is fear of those that are actual “strangers”. Afrikans cannot be strangers or “foreigners” in Afrika. What we see here is an extreme form of an element we can trace in all Black societies across the world; variations of self-hatred expressed as rage against our own. This is the same Black-on-Black violence we can see in many places across the Afrikan world. White Supremacy has disempowered the Afrikan being to such levels that it only reacts with violence. And instead of directing this violence towards those who actually represent an enemy (in South Afrika it would “make sense” if such rage was expressed against whites who own most of the land, the economy and the production), it is meted out against representations of “The Black Other”. It is a twisted and dark psychology that expresses itself in many sick ways. In this instance, it ties in with the generations of pain, silence, denial, oppression, looting and dehumanization that Black SA’s have accumulated and never resolved. I repeat, this is NOT an excuse or an explanation that justifies what is going on. It just gives a rational. Without us resolving these issues, we will continue to have outbreaks of this – and even worse – scenarios.

I believe – in addition to everything mentioned above – there are outside instigations, white interests working in the shadows and corruption with state organs involved in this, too. The only relief is that this is NOT the mentality of the majority of S.Afrikans. Most S.A’s are against such violence (although I charge that not enough SA’s are voicing their disgust strongly enough). The devastating part is that not enough is being done to prevent and stop such violent outbreaks, from the side of state organs and government. This paralyzes society. And the institutions that could help to stop this seem part bewildered, part ignorant and part wanting this to happen. It is devastating.

There are human rights groups and community organizations involved in creating dialogue, calm the tensions and trying to resolve conflicts. But, issues of this nature need a STRONG involvement from state organs; a clear and resolute intervention to put a complete stop to this ridiculous violence. Secondly, poverty MUST be addressed. At the root of all this are issues of grave inequality and inhuman living conditions. Thirdly, once this is addressed, dialogues and entrepreneurial exchange/collaboration must be infused into every community. Not just talks, but practical experiences of co-existence. Our company have several modules that we have infused in a number of communities on such issues. But, we are helpless when insane flames of violence are towering above us.

I hope this gives a bit of a picture of what is happening to those who are outside the country.

(To those in SA who read from my post that I am not addressing the real issues, that I am in denial about how foreign nationals are a problem, that there is no Afriphobia etc – please, post your comments somewhere else. To those who agree with my sentiments, blow up every social media page and talk-radio-space you have access to and get involved in finding solutions.)

(Re-post this all you wish!)
The struggle continues!

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About Author

Baba Buntu

Lecturer, researcher, strategist and practitioner within Afrikan history, culture, community empowerment and social transformation. I'm an Afrikan man, student of my Ancestor's Legacies, trying to live life to the fullest, squeezing meaning out of every experience and encounter.

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