17 April, 2008

The ongoing battle against xenophobia

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…


Luyanda Mayekiso said...

From my own personal expirience i believe that it is true that foreiners use muti to get anything they want that another person has, whether it means killing them or making that person brain dead, im a very young individual,but i have seen quite a few things that would make you think twise about writing this article the way you did, accusations made by people i would say are 90% true depending on their personal expireince with foreiners, which is why i "hate" foreiners and would never agree that they are treated unfairly. Xenophobia is a complex issue and must be dealt with accordingly!

Buhle said...

Thanda, it seems like you knew what was going to happen when you wrote your entry. It's really bad what's happening in Gauteng... It's so embarassing to think what the world thinks of South Africa right now.

The main problem I think is the way that the foreigners act when they in South Africa. I live in an area where 3 quarters of the foreign population in Durban live; South Beach aka Point Road. They have this mentality that they will not follow the law and when in trouble with the police, they get away with it very easily. That is their ONLY fault. What is happening right now is people being DUMB!

I don't even know what to say to my foreign friends. I've had a few who ask me if I would snap one dau and treat them like yesterdays trash. It has become so difficult because the world hears: "South Africans are involved in Xenophobic attacks", not Alex residents. The world doesn't care about Alex. they care about South Africa, the 2010 host nation and right now, we are filthier than the Nazi's.

The government must act NOW! Setting up a panel is not going to solve anything! it's time the army came out to help because really, we have had ENOUGH! The last straw was when they burnt a man wrapped in a blanket and they were laughing! how heartless is that? South Africa are we Africans whenever we are bidding for something, need something or 'feel the pride of being African'. Real Africans Do not do this! We don't tear our brothers' homes down, beat them up, rape our sisters and burn them alive? No! No! No!

It's time we put sense into these idiotic individuals and incarcerate them. These are crimes against humanity.

Government pleas deploy the army to serve us, by getting rid of the rotten apples that are ruining South Africa's already messed up, image! It's about time you guys take action and not talk about how you going to solve the issue, let your actions speak! get your hands dirty. Saying sorry is not going to solve anything. the damage is done. We must now work on convincing the world that we are a caring nation and that they mustn't fear coming to our country whether they are assylum seekers or anything.

And let's stop balming everything on apartheid.It's time we took full responsibilty on our mishaps.