The xenophobic violence in South Africa

Tue, 21 Apr 2015 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

The xenophobic violence in South Africa: A lot more than mere hatred for immigrants

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Folks, news reports about the xenophobic violence against immigrants in South Africa are disturbing. So also are reports that 12 Ghanaians (considered to be Christians) among a group of Africans emigrating to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea had been thrown overboard by their Muslim migrating counterparts to perish just because of “religious differences”.

The happenings in South Africa are particularly troubling for several reasons; and they raise very serious questions:

• What is the crime of these immigrants to warrant their being so targeted?

• What exactly are the immigrants doing “to make it”, which the South African nationals aren’t able to do (and which might be a catalyst for their being hated and attacked)?

• Are these migrants employed in the public sector or the private sector, where they are using their own resources, business-minded expertise and administrative acumen to manage their enterprises successfully (which might make them the bull’s eye to be so attacked by those unable to do so)?

• Is there any official programme in place that favours the immigrants to the disadvantage of the South African nationals? What for and why should there be any programme of the sort?

• What exactly could be the factors catalyzing these xenophobic attacks on the immigrants?

Folks, many other questions are begging for answers. The socio-economic situation in South Africa hasn’t improved under the ANC-led administration and the optimism that ushered in the “Black South African” self-rule has virtually dissipated or snowballed into paranoia and misplaced vengeance against immigrants.

An inkling of this kind of rampage against immigrants is provided by Niq Mhlongo (in his much-acclaimed novel, Dog-Eat-Dog) and could be predicted by a careful reader. In truth, the main motivation for it is the misperception that the immigrants are raking in benefits from the system while the indigenes are left destitute as a result of the government’s nonchalance or failure to implement policies to support them. A warped perception of the real problems facing the indigenes!

Indeed, happenings in South Africa since the ANC took over governance show that the country is falling into the cauldron of mismanagement, incompetence, and murderous deception and trickery, chicanery, and treachery that is the pattern of deplorable governance prevalent on the African continent. In that sense, we can say that South Africa is declining because the ANC government hasn’t been able to solve problems.

The high-sounding rhetoric that paved the way for the ANC to topple the racist National Party of the Apartheid network has only one consequence: running in place, not really making any progress to fulfill the aspirations of the vast majority of South Africans. The Inkatha Freedom Party of Chief Buthelezi isn't as much the main challenge for the ANC as the ANC is for itself: Julius Malema's exit to form his own party to challenge the status quo is an indication that the ANC is tottering.

Add the agitations within COSATU and many other labour-related problems and you can predict a bleak future for the country, especially if the "hegemonistic tendencies" of the current administration trend up. When we see things of this sort coming down the pike in South Africa, we can't fail to foresee a gloomy future. So much anger is piling up in the citizens that they need only a poke of the finger to explode into what is now rocking the country against immigrants.

The causes of such waywardness and misplaced vengeance can be traced to the inadequacies of the ANC-led administration that have their foundation in the objective reality of the kind of politics going on in the country.

Under Nelson Mandela, the main pre-occupation was national unity and reconciliation for a stable South Africa. Of course, that pre-occupation was imperative because of the exigencies of the time. Bring in Thabo Mbeki and hopes of economic progress begin to evaporate. Faced with serious crisis at many fronts (especially agitations by the citizens for policies that would improve living conditions), Mbeki’s administration wobbled and hobbled till the internal crisis pushed him out of office for Jacob Zumah to bounce back into contention.

Under him, South Africa remains a country but one that is neither trending up nor down. Marking time? Add Zumah’s personal inclinations verging on corruption and the systemic weaknesses to all the problems rocking the country and you should cringe.

South Africa remains a giant in Africa but is gradually sliding toward the precipice. Unsurprisingly, then, the citizens will become apprehensive and choose migrants as targets to hit in a mistaken belief that they will be tackling a major factor militating against their self-worth. Pathetic.

The rapid nature of the xenophobic attacks is troubling. It seems such attacks had been long in planning and execution. It can’t be dismissed as “spontaneous”. I have serious doubts that those attacking the migrants are doing so on-the-spur-of-the-moment. It is a well-organized and well-co-ordinated activity that should be condemned.

South Africa under the ANC is what it is today because of the massive support of outsiders. Had outsiders not lent massive support to the ANC and its freedom-fighting agenda, the residual Boer elements would still have been in power to continue perpetrating their obnoxious Apartheid system. So, why should immigrants from countries that sacrificed their lot for South Africa to be in the hands of the majority African (I hate to use the word “black”) segment of the population to be in power?

Although the latest news reports have it that 300 people have been arrested in connection with the violence against immigrants, the situation remains critical.

We have been told that four Ghanaians are among those killed. Although the South African High Commissioner in Ghana has denied that one of them (Emmanuel Quarcoo) was not killed in a xenophobic attack), the truth stands that what is happening in South Africa is disgraceful. Fears of reprisal attacks on South African nationals or property exist, but nothing has happened so far.

We may continue to blame the South Africans carrying out such violent acts; but we should also be honest to ourselves to acknowledge that the emigration of Ghanaians (and other Africans caught in the wave of xenophobic attacks) to South Africa is the direct upshot of the failure of the various governments to create the congenial atmosphere to retain them at home so they can serve their countries.

These governments have virtually plunged the countries into chaos and improved conditions for the brain drain. Should they do the right thing, the people will have no need to risk their lives, emigrating to other countries and being chosen for this kind of xenophobic violence.

In our Ghanaian situation particularly, we must be bold to say that Ghanaians are always on the move, looking for any sign of “green pasture” anywhere to gravitate toward. They have virtually lost faith in their own system and are more willing to go as the wind blows than staying put at home to be reduced to nothingness.

Will our leaders learn any useful lesson from the xenophobic violence in South Africa and other countries (Libya on my mind) to do the right thing so the citizens can stay home to offer their lot toward nation-building?

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.