Attack economic inequalities, not African immigrants

Prominent Pan-Africanist, Marcus Mosiah Garvey once said, “If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. Liberate the minds of men and ultimately you will liberate the bodies of men.”

Garvey, a Jamaican politician, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator who was a proponent of the Pan-Africanism movement, and led a movement for the return of freed slaves back to Africa must surely be turning in his grave if events of the past week in South Africa are anything to go by.

We doubt if this is the same South Africa that icons like Chief Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela fought for, a rainbow nation where everyone would be free despite colour, race or creed.

We doubt if this is the same South Africa that Africans, including those in neighbouring countries, sacrificed for and many paid the ultimate price through cross-border reprisals by the apartheid regime.

Today we ask what has gone wrong with the common South Africans that they cannot live side by side with their brothers and sisters from poorer countries on the continent trying to eke out a living in that country.

The Rainbow Nation is once more grabbing the headlines for violent attacks against foreign black nationals living in that country who the locals accuse of stealing their jobs and their wealth.  South Africans also accuse foreigners of an upsurge in criminal activities such as  robberies, rape and drug peddling.  This is despite the fact that crime knows no nationality.

The world watched in awe as South Africans took to the streets, with some resorting to violent confrontations and looting and destruction of property belonging to fellow brothers and sisters from African countries who are in that country to try and make ends meet.

It is estimated that about two million foreigners live in South Africa and a majority of them are from other African countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Nigeria, Somalia, Zambia and Zimbabwe,

On Friday, police used rubber bullets and stun grenades in a demonstration in Pretoria when protesters clashed with migrants.

President Jacob Zuma, former President Thabo Mbeki  and the ruling ANC party have condemned the violence. But Mbeki, a staunch Pan-Africanist, went further and said attacking fellow Africans will not help in improving the lot of South Africans.

While others are of the view that South Africa is once more experiencing a rise in xenophobia, we believe this is Afrophobia as the anger and violence is directed at fellow Africans mostly from Nigeria, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

This is because there are millions of immigrants living in South Africa, some of European, Chinese and American decent and most of whom control huge chunks of that country’s economy  but they are never subject of attacks by locals.   It is not that we would like them to be attacked, but just to show the senselessness of the attacks on African immigrants.

We do not condone violence directed against anyone in whatever form and it is high time ordinary South Africans realized that directing their anger at fellow Africans living or working in that country will not solve their problems of unemployment and economic hardships.   

In the words of Garvey, we ask, have South Africans lost confidence in themselves as a people to face the everyday life challenges that they blame everything on foreigners? Have they already lost knowledge of their immediate past history?  Do they need their minds to be liberated so they are conscious of who their real enemies are?   

We believe the challenge facing South Africa today is addressing the widening economic gap between the rich and poor in that country and equally sharing the national cake.

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March 2017
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