Xenophobia attacks; Africa shooting itself in the foot

By Anesu Pedzisayi

The sporadic xenophobic attacks that have recently been taking place in South Africa are not only despicable and barbaric but extremely sad, considering that the attacks are from one black brother to another. More so, these attacks are not for the first time and the South African government seems to have no solution in sight.

According to an article in Bloomberg, in 2008, about 60 people were killed and over 50 000 displaced from their homes. In 2015, seven people died from the violence. The recent ongoing spates, the degree of violence, hate and attacks against Africans by black South Africans is heart-breaking.

The questions that quickly come to mind; what happened to Ubuntu? Where is the brotherhood, the humanity, the peace and love that Africa so much cries for? How did we come to become our own worst enemies? Where is all that hate coming from? And when will we stand together as one people to address the more pertinent issues that we face as an African continent? Cry my beloved Africa!

The World Bank rates the South African economy as an upper middle income economy, one of four African countries, the other being Mauritius, Botswana and Gabon, and its economy is the second largest in Africa, after Nigeria.  It is also one of the most developed nations in the African continent. All that has makes South Africa an attraction to people from neighboring countries, as they seek after employment and trade opportunities. It is those same people that are being attacked by natives, as mainly foreign owned shops and business premises are attacked.

Worryingly so, it is black people owned businesses that are being burnt down, by other black people. Does this mean black people should never be investors in other African countries? Have we not the potential as blacks to build our own economies, and if we can, then why attack and destroy a brothers’ effort to grow and contribute towards development? South Africans need to address their misdirected anger, as the population of immigrants in South Africa, fall far short from being the biggest number of people taking away employment from them. These foreigners mostly own small businesses, for their own survival and with little effect to the survival of the next South African. Clearly, as Africans, we are our own detractors!

The xenophobic attacks are coming on the eve of South Africa hosting the African edition of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town, on 4 September 2019. Already, a bad picture is being painted that Africa is divided and probably not a safe place to invest in.

These xenophobic attacks have already contributed to the loss of millions of dollars, as shops are being looted, car garages burnt down to ashes, buildings and properties destroyed amongst other vices. What South Africans are failing to also grasp is that an attack on these businesses also means an attack on their own livelihoods. Xenophobia will push away investors, who would not want to build their businesses in an unstable environment.

The widespread attacks also mean that foreigners, with relevant skills and expertise that contributes to the growth of the South Africa’s economy are also turned away. In any case, no country has grown or been built without the contribution of foreigners. The same foreigners South Africa is sadly burning today.

Relations between countries are gravely strained, as neighbouring countries are demanding that South African Government puts into effect stronger interventions for the protection of foreigners. The heinous acts, which now seem to be a South African trademark, as it happens often in the Southern African country, have the potential to damage regional relations within the continent. 

Africans need to be tolerant of each other, and remember that working together as a continent will take Africa to greater heights. EFF leader, Julius Malema, once said, “we need to do away with this nonsensical idea that was imposed on us by colonisers, by Theresa May ancestors, that we must dislike each other. We must do away with that….” It is high time that South Africans learn to live in harmony with foreigners. Africans should shun from being their own oppressors. Human life is sacrosanct, respect for the other is invaluable, and xenophobia should never be condoned.