This is not designed to be a controversial feature, nor to even stir up a debate. This is an opinion piece written by an insomniac birthday boy who has read and heard and watched the horrible things that’s been going on in South Africa… and he has a few things to say about maybe why such a formerly oppressed people are oppressing other people so much. Xenophobia in South Africa is killing people, destroying businesses and tearing up good relations in African countries.
Well, hurt people hurt people. But I have something to say about it. I #SayNoToXenophobia!
This is an opinion piece. Let us stick to the facts, as usual.
Imagine a large group of people armed with cutlasses and axes and what not marching into a major city with the intention of causing harm or even death to foreign businesses and their owners because these armed people blame foreigners for their low economic status and increased crime rate. They burned down stores and shops. They looted, and did very heinous things. That’s what’s been happening in Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria.
Police did arrive at the scene and shot rubber bullets to disperse them. But an energised mob with such misplaced conviction is deadly. People have died, at least 10 of them, including foreign nationals. We’ve all seen the horrible videos. Over 80 people have been arrested also.
The South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, very firmly lambasted the perpetuators of these acts and emphasised that these attacks on businesses run by “foreign nationals is something totally unacceptable, something that we cannot allow to happen in South Africa.” He added “I want it to stop immediately”, and found the violence to have “no justification”.
And yes, Cyril Ramaphosa is right. Targeted attacked of this sort cannot possibly be justified. It’s 2019 and personal accounts from friends in South Africa tell me they feel regular xenophobic sentiments towards foreigners even in very formal settings. This is not only in the streets. #SayNoToXenophobia
It was when I read that line “no justification” that I wondered why these perpetuators think they have the right to hunt and kill foreigners and their businesses like we’re all still living in the wild. South Africa has so much promise for Africa with a rich culture and a history that should actually result in the rise of empathy and unity and love.
So what happened? I do not claim to know the answer. I just know a few facts, so let us stick to the facts. This remains an opinion piece.
The FACT is that there was this thing called Apartheid.
In the Afrikaans language, the word “apartheid” translates to “apartness”, which should tell you all you need to know about what this was about. It was about segregation. It was about racial supremacy, white supremacy to be exact. It was about the repression of blacks, coloured (mixed race), and all others but a white minority.
Apartheid was law. It was in the South African Constitution. Meaning you have to imagine current LAW stating that you, the person reading this, by the virtue of your skin colour or race, whether qualified or not, whether you could afford it or not, cannot freely live where you want, or work where you want, or even receive the type of education of want. You have to imagine being told you cannot vote. Imagine having a Ghana Card and being told you cannot vote or attend certain schools even if you wanted to pay for the education or needing a pass to work in specific areas of the country all because it was a place reserved for the white minority.
Apartheid was ruthless in its execution from 1948 when it was formally adopted by the South African Government, right up until 1991 when Apartheid legislation was repealed pending fully democratic, multiracial elections in 1994.
You have to once more imagine being a black person living in Apartheid South Africa to grasp the level and shocking magnitude of the hypocrisy of these xenophobic attacks. Apartheid South Africa was about institutional oppression by racism and legalised inequality. Now after Nelson Mandela and many others fought for this suffering to end, the previous sufferers are now imposing suffering on others based on their race. Do you see the hypocrisy?
South Africa and the African continent have come too far fighting against such evil forces to allow for Xenophobia in South Africa to take root this deep. We cannot now normalise these evils of the past.
The first Apartheid law was The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act in 1949, which prohibited interracial marriages. It was closely followed by the Immorality Acts which prohibited sexual relations between whites and non-whites. The Population Registration Act even required each South African to be registered with his or her racial characteristics under one of four racial groups. Between 1960 and 1983, 3.5 million Non-White South Africans were removed from their homes and forced to live in segregated neighborhoods, in one of the largest mass evictions in modern history. Blacks could not even run businesses in areas reserved for white South Africa. Even transport, hospitals, ambulances and civil facilities were segregated.
Fast forward to 1994 and Nelson Mandela becomes the first President of a post-Apartheid South Africa. Blacks and Non-Whites rejoiced! So did the continent and the rest of the World.
This remains an opinion piece. #SayNoToXenophobia
But then I start to think, of South Africa’s history. Back in 1994, while I was happily playing chaskele without a care in the world, some people in SA saw a new dawn. Previously unrealisable dreams were suddenly within reach. But when you oppress black people the way they did during Apartheid, it does damage that ripples through generations.
When you blast a hole this big in a people’s economic, social and psychological nucleus, it reaches so deep that it will take both time and effective social conscientisation efforts to control the after-effects, and I think that is what we are seeing today. Foreigners have been the problem before 25years ago. One or three whiffs of foreigner-related issues and now it’s a full-blown, violent xenophobic set of incidents where ALL foreigners are being blamed for ALL of the problem.
The small percentage of foreign migrants within the vast population of South Africa cannot be blamed for all the crime and economic disparity with this great nation. This is the textbook definition of scapegoatism.
Think about this: South Africans are in a country that was previously designed to keep them economically stifled and in many ways disempowered. It went on for many decades until just about 25 years ago, which isn’t that long. Since then, Blacks have governed Blacks. If there’s not been much of a difference… then… hey it’s been BLACKS GOVERNING BLACKS.
What’s the age difference between generations? Some 25 to 30 years? It’s safe to say a minimum of 3 generations lived through institutionalised Apartheid since the National Party in 1948. South Africa has made strides post-Apartheid but generally not without the troubles of effective leadership post Mandela. This is a safe statement to make; these leadership troubles played out with the whole world watching.
It’s been only 25 years since the first Black President in South Africa; that’s relatively not too long ago. Add the lack of fluidity in effective leadership and it’s a bad mix. These recent Xenophobic attacks aren’t the first ones. They have been happening for some years now but have now escalated. South Africans are a lovely people. From where are these perpetuators? Outside of town? No!
And this is where my unsolicited, purely on-the-spot-thinking, not-close-to-enough-research-done hypothesis comes in. So please don’t shoot the messenger if you do not agree with me. This is an opinion piece.
From where are these perpetuators? Outside of town? No! These crimes are symptomatic of mob mentality. These young men, who can be conservatively put within the ages of 18 and 39, grew up through the end of Apartheid, which was some 25years ago. They then started thinking “oh hey, we have rights now so things will be alright!” and they 100% do have rights.
But then these perpetuators seemingly now expect these rights to work magic and conjure up a meaningful, comfortable existence, even when the same leaderships they have voted for fail to deliver over and over again. It doesn’t work like that. When it doesn’t happen like that, it escalates into a mob mentality with misplaced frustrations.
There is NO JUSTIFICATION for Xenophobia in South Africa as the South African President said last week. Foreigners are being scapegoated for a myriad of problems that have a myriad of causes. Screaming inequality while oppressing those unequal to you is so ironic because this is what they fought to eradicate. That is so sad on so many different levels. Which country in Africa with open borders doesn’t have some crime committed by some foreign nationals? It is not ideal. But Xenophobia won’t fix it.
Xenophobia is not the answer. #SayNoToXenophobia
Maybe all this is because the people haven’t seen the rewards in post-apartheid SA and that might have created more unrest, more misplaced resentment, because to them nothing’s changed, nothing is different. Maybe because the fruits of the fight for freedom haven’t reached their dinner tables yet. So to them it has to be somebody’s fault and foreigners are being made the literal scapegoats when they use a relative few bad nuts to justify the mauling and killing and destruction of many.
The anti-xenophobic rhetoric should start from the leaders of the country and trickle down through mass conscientisation efforts. I pray for those affected by these happenings.
Ghana empathises and we send our love and well-wishes ♥
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Maxwell Ampong is the Group CEO of Maxwell Investments Group, an International Trade and Business Development Solutions Provider. He is also the Property Investment Consultant for Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate Ghana. He works with a team of motivated professionals, governed by industry experts with experience spanning over a century. He writes about trending and relevant economic topics, and general perspective pieces. LinkedIn:/in/thisisthemax Instagram:@thisisthemax Twitter:@thisisthemax Facebook:@thisisthemax Website: www.maxwellinvestmentsgroup.com Email: email@example.com Mobile: 0249993319