THE XENOPHOBIA BATTLE
by Thandanani Mhlanga
Xenophobia is one of the foremost prejudices still prevalent in South Africa today. According to the deputy commissioner at the South African human rights commission, Zonke Majodina, there’s been growing hatred towards immigrants and asylum seekers.
One reason according to the National Labour and Economic Development institute is that contrary to popular belief 48.5% percent of South Africa’s population is still living in poverty.
Many South Africans expressed sentiments that they are losing their Jobs to foreigners.
Vanessa Tsogwane, a Journalism student had this to say: “South Africans are lazy and these foreigners come here to work. Most of them are small business owners and they work very hard. South Africans wait for jobs to be handed to them and when foreigners start making money they resent them.”
I sat down with a group of Spa cashiers who openly dislike foreigners. They said that they found foreigners to have violent tendencies and didn’t practice personal hygiene and that they even dislike the way they look.
They did not say how the above directly harmed them but were expressive in their distaste with such passion that I began to wonder. To what extent does xenophobia stem from cultural myths than economic scarcity?
I grew up in Mpumalanga where foreigners are few and are shrouded by rumour and mystery. I was often told of their supernatural powers, how they had the ability to harm others and make money through “muti”. I never got the opportunity to interact with a foreigner and for that reason I couldn’t associate human qualities with them. This is hard to admit because I now count foreigners as some of my best friends. If I had indeed continued to live under those impressions and didn’t get the opportunity to come to a place where I was exposed to them and got to know them, I would also feel like those women.
The tragedy in all this is while we’re burning their shops and chasing them away from our townships we’re doing the same thing that long gone comrades fought to liberate black people from. When they sought refuge they were welcomed with open arms into those African countries. We’ve failed to identify the real enemy which is a lackluster youth that has no initiative in finding ways to gain income. How can someone from another country come to an impoverished community and thrive financially? Vodoo aside clearly something is amiss.
Shouldn’t the focus then be on learning from our African brothers and sisters? Combine what entrepreneurial skills they offer with the resources of our thriving country and start a new movement for change.
Lonwabo Busakwe, an activist of the black consciousness movement said: “As Africans we have a common history of being separated by colonialism. During that time we lost our cultures, religions, freedom and somewhere in between we lost ourselves. I see a time for us to restore our unity and humanity.”
This struggle will not resolve itself overnight. Mainly because there is so much misinformation blurring the cultural lines. Maybe if we all made the commitment today to approach a foreigner and simply say hello…