Note: This piece was first published in May 2008. Its relevancy and timeliness are still unfolding as we see in the ongoing murders of Nigerians in South Africa.
South Africa is in the throes of violent epiphany and it is horrifyingly sad to watch how she is plummeting from political, moral, cultural and social regeneration to barbaric and odious cannibalism which, if left uncontrolled, could lead to self-implosion. The sudden romance with national nihilism and anarchy by her jobless, poor, illiterate, coward and xenophobic-driven blacks against fellow black Africans signalled the beginning of ethnic cleansing which may rapidly degenerate into holocaust if clearer warning is not delivered to her impotent leaders who are currently looking the other way as the orgy of violence encircles this former bastion of apartheid.
Most media comments about South Africa’s killing fields of Diepsloot in Johannesburg, Hammanskraal outside Tshwane, Mkhambathini in Kwazulu-Natal, Cape Town, Pretoria, Western Cape and East London have been cringing and patronising and this had led to a hardening of attitude among the ghetto guerrillas who still roam around with knives, cutlass and guns looking for human turkey to cannibalise upon. The moral and credibility mileage she had reclaimed since the rebirth of a rainbow nation devoid of bickering, revenge and retaliation is now ossified by this relapse into butchery of fellow Africans. The love, goodwill, support, affection, moral and financial investment we all give to South Africa during her darkest history of apartheid is now dishonoured by her deadly loathing of blacks of other nations who live in her midst.
South Africa’s delicate evolution from a nation of racial animus to an inclusive, tolerant society has now come under re-evaluation by her shameless descent into xenophobic anarchism, barbaric rascality and primordial cannibalism. Nigeria, a once frontline state in the struggle for South Africa’s freedom from apartheid captivity is now a victim of abhorrent hate and murderous envy.
The reasons advanced for the mayhem and bloodletting are simplistic, puerile and nonsensical. South African blacks, goes the romanticised cant, are fighting a survivalist war to protect thinning jobs hijacked by the invading and hungry hordes from Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Citizens of these helpless countries must have uncommon psychic gifts to have known that South Africa is the new Europe paved with gold, diamond, emerald and silver. What the oracle did not reveal to our nomadic adventurers is South Africa’s present predicament of anomie, ennui, unemployment, violence, drug and alcohol dependency and worse, mass psychiatric problem brought about by the blight of apartheid’s 350 years of unrelenting blaxploitation.
South Africa was founded by its apartheid overlords on violence and brutal massacre. That historical tragedy has found its way into their national lore and today South Africans are proud to see themselves as violent and cannibalistic. What is acutely maddening is the wrong channelisation of this ugly, murderous, demonic revenge on innocent sojourners who wandered into their country in search of opportunity and better life.
The Ghanaians, Malawians, Mozambicans, Nigerians, Tanzanians, Zambians and Zimbabweans who have been victims of ghoulish, bloody killings are the only soft targets their South African killers could prey upon. Already, 26,000 Mozambicans have fled South Africa because of attacks. Also, Malawi has evacuated its citizens from South Africa’s theatre of xenophobic psychosis. What this state of affair seems to suggest to the larger world who are being entertained by a cast of stupid actors playing out their version of Greek tragedy on an African soil is simply this: are they human beings? What is wrong with black Africans?
Why do they hate themselves? Why do they project difference instead of unity and togetherness? Who is going to unite these disparage people with shared afro-cultural heritage? When would black Africa deconstruct and dredge out its violent past and construct a united, borderless continent with free access based on shared identity of Negroid race? When are we going to embark on the truncation of tribal hatred, inter-country jealousies and hostility?
The urgency of a national conversation should be more strident among South Africans in the face of her ugly wickedness against black foreigners. This is the time to confront herself and speak truth to her own conscience. Her political, social, economic and cultural institutions which rest squarely on Ubuntu, a national philosophy ecstatically adopted to usher in respect, understanding, equity, sharing, caring, humanness, social justice and fairness has now been found to rest on faulty, empty rhetorical foundations. South Africa is still a work in progress society, and as she walks the tight rope of national reconstruction, she should peel off the mask of false image of a great rainbow nation, at peace with herself and devoid of racial animosity.
The animating vision of old revolutionaries like Madiba Nelson Mandela, John Dube, Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Clemens Kadile who was himself of Malawian origin, Albert Lithuli, Lilian Ngoyi, Thomas Nkobi, a Zimbabwean in origin, Oliver Thambo, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Joe Slovo and Ruth First, both scions of Anglo-Saxon root, to enthrone a society define by inclusion, multiculturalism, racial tolerance and progress has now entered its most trying period. In retrospect, the vision of Mandela after the traumatic years in the Gulag of Robben Island and eight years as president of South Africa could now be judged by its failure.
After Mandela’s rehabilitation from prison, he embraced a faulty political pragmatism forced on him by Western investors and the powerful economic-dominant white and Asian minority who still live in style and stupendous comfort, amidst the poverty of the ghettoes inhabited by shameless, warmongering natives, now on a prowl hunting down their own brothers and sisters! Why this self-defeating hubris among black Africans?
Mandela’s presidency was marked not by political, social, cultural and economic exactitude or restitution but by patronising obeisance to the whims and caprices of white and Asian South Africans who threatened massive capital reparation if national reconstruction includes redistribution of their ill-gotten wealth. Shorn of his old insurrectionary and radical temper, Mandela capitulated and the effect is now visible in South Africa’s oasis of lost hope, unemployment, anger, regret, poverty and violence among her black populace.
The energetic, bright and renaissance-inspired Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki concocted emotion-driven policy soundings which rest squarely on re-awakening Africa’s pride that had been castrated and tamed by centuries of apartheid and white slavery. He spoke of equity, justice and black empowerment in a new South Africa that had been abused, racially raped and exploited by her old, unrepentant Afrikaner white minority rulers. Seven years on, Mbeki’s dream has not unfolded. He is more interested in golf than governing. Under him, unemployment soar, violence mushroom and you could see blood on the dance floor of every smoke-filled sheebeen in the black-populated townships and ghettoes of Soweto.
Contained by fear, fatigue, frustration, failure and alienated, displaced, ignored, snubbed and treated as third class citizens, even after apartheid, black South Africans had to forage for soft ‘meat’ in the form of innocent black foreigners, and cannibalise on them with the kind of feeding frenzy common to a pack of hungry lions. The monumental policy failure and total asphyxiation of their hope and economic liberation by both Mandela and Mbeki was another indictment of black leadership failure in black Africa. However, there is a nagging annoyance which would not go away, especially when you see the huge irony of it all. Why are black South Africans not targeting white and Asian people, the twin powers behind their serfdom, economic destitution and slavery?
Can we accuse black South Africans of cowardice on poor, defenceless black foreigners while the real destroyers of their destiny are left untouched? Why are barriers being erected against black migrants to South Africa but Asian and white are welcomed with red carpet? Does black Africa need a continental conversation of shared values based on shared origin and heritage? Is black Africa’s collective sacrifice against apartheid in vain in the face of this crunching ungratefulness? Do we need to keep on sacrificing ourselves in order to pamper the white and Asian settlers on African soil?
Can we say that fifth column, I mean white paymasters, have infiltrated the midst of our brothers and sisters and cheering them on in their senseless orgy of xenophobic rush? Why are black South Africans still reinforcing the racist stereotype of black people as ignoble savages? Why? Why? Why?
. Tijani writes from [email protected]