SOUTH AFRICA FIDDLES, WHILE GAUTENG BURNS
By Zukiswa Wanner
Friday, May 23, 2008.
I would loathe for my silence on the madness that has gripped my country to be seen as approval for the xenophobic attacks that are destroying people’s lives - my fellow Africans, who came to my country in the hope of a better life for themselves because of political, economic, ad social upheavals in their own countries.
I am particularly pained because I too have been a refugee in other African countries. In 1976, while South African townships were burning because of African students’ refusal to use Afrikaans as a language of instruction, I was born in a Zambian hospital to a South African father and a Zimbabwean mother, both of them political exiles.
The nurses who attended to me were Zambian and the doctor who delivered me was Zimbabwean. My mother tells me they nicknamed me ‘Soweto’ because I was one of the few South African children born during that tumultuous time in our nation’s history in that hospital.
Lately I have been wondering whether I would have been alive if the Zambians had been as unwelcoming to my parents as my fellow nationals have been to our fellow Africans?
I wonder whether I would be able to write this if it weren’t for the education I received in Zimbabwe at Zimbabwean taxpayers’ expense? I wonder too whether South Africa would be the free country it is today if the rest of other African countries had been as unwelcoming?
Would Mama Miriam Makeba, Jonas Gwangwa and Hugh Masekela have been as celebrated on the continent?
Would Lewis Nkosi and Eskia Mphahlele have attained their intellectual status if it were not for teaching at some of the African universities they taught at?
Would South Africa be the country it is without the thousands of exiles who were welcomed, educated and attained their professional experience in Nigeria, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania and various other African countries?
Every South African I know has at least one relative who was in exile and yet today, we claim to be good men and women but sit and do nothing while evil prospers in the form of xenophobic attacks as those same self Africans (or their relatives) who helped our people are being bludgeoned to death?
PhD types have come up with reasons why this is happening, why even when we cannot condone the behaviour we should understand the anger of the working class. Bull!
An analysis of some of the excuses that have been used:
There are those who claim that poor South Africans are perpetrating these atrocious crimes because of lack of service delivery from the government and that South Africans are frustrated. Uh, hello? How idiotic is that? The non-South Africans are probably tortured by the same lack of service-delivery from government and are therefore in your shoes. I know tons of refuges who have been here for as long as 14 years and are yet to get their refugee papers completely processed by Home Affais.
Besides, I don’t get it. How does killing your Mozambican neighbour going to speed up service delivery? May be if the South African working class feels so strongly about lack of service delivery, instead of killing the wretched of the earth who are trying to make it like themselves, they should be intelligent enough to, as my friend Ndumiso was saying yesterday, to go and ‘storm the Bastille’.
You know where the Union Buildings are, you know where Parliament is, you know where the municipality offices are – those are the people you should be holding accountable and questioning instead of looting from a person whose corner store holds all the resources he/she has. That’s not an incitement against government by the way. It’s just a statement to highlight how misplaced the anger seems to be when clearly there are people on power who are supposed to be accountable for the service delivery.
They are taking our jobs
Plain dumb. Most of the people perpetrating the crime on fellow Africans are idiots who have never bothered to get matric certificates and would still be unemployed if these so-called foreigners were not here. Andyou have to question the very idea of calling a fellow African a foreigner on African soil when the David Bullards are living it large and getting applause for spewing their racist diatribe.
This morning as I was writing this, a friend of mine called me and told me of a doctor from another country who was abducted from a hospital because of course he is ‘taking our job’. How stupid is that? In a country where we are bemoaning the lack of doctors, should we not be celebrating this brother and thanking him for wanting to work in our public hospitals for pays that most South African doctors will become expatriates for?
They are taking our women
Here is the thing folks, from one South African woman to South African mankind – women are not taken, they go. There is no guarantee that we would be with you if the so-called foreigners were not here. Here is the thing. May be if you started spending less time blaming the government for you lack of development and actively tried to do something. Go to uMsobomvu and see what innovative project of yours they can fund, actively go to industries and seek work as a cleaner, salesperson, go back to school and better your qualifications.
May be if you stopped standing at street corners at 7.00am on Monday drinking beer and asking those who are going to work for one Rand for skyf. May be if you stopped beating up your women when they ask you for money to buy your child diapers or food. May be if you treat South African women the way you want your sisters, mothers and daughters to be treated – may be they would not be interested in these ‘foreigners’.
No nation is bereft of crime and by the same token, no nationality is bereft of criminals. It is true that some bad seeds who have emigrated into South Africa have criminal elements but while publications like Daily Sun do much to fuel xenophobic feeling among South Africans with headlines such as ‘Mozambicans kill Lucky Dube’, ‘Zimbabweans in shoot out with Police’ the majority of criminals, as the South African jail population will attest, are South Africans.
It is South Africans who are raping three month old babies and 80 year old grannies. It is South Africans who are killing fellow South Africans for cell phones late at night.
It is South Africans who are creating front companies for their criminal business activities. It is South Africans who are taking bribes before awarding tenders.
It is South Africans who are arresting fellow South Africans and sending them to Lindela because ‘you are too black to be a South African (Hello? Did someone forget that we are in Africa and people on this continent are by and large supposed to be dark?).
And yes…it is South Africans who are killing fellow Africans because of ignorance and a lack of understanding of the debt we owe those same Africans for our freedom.
I write this to purge myself of some of the anger that I feel over everything that is happening to my fellow Africans in my country. And yet, I feel it’s a useless exercise. The people who are perpetrating these crimes are probably not people who would visit this website or read my blog but rather read the despicable Daily Sun that tends to fuel some of their sentiments.
I write because if there is a non South African fellow African out thee in cyberspace reading this on South African soil, I would like to say on behalf of many other South Africans who feel the way I do – a heartfelt and profound sorry.
I have never been more ashamed of being South African as I have been for the last few days. I am a nobody whose sentiments will probably make little different to what’s happening but to my fellow Africans in South Africa, is there anything I can do to help? Let me know.
My email is email@example.com.
Zukiswa Wanner is a South African writer. She blogs at African Writing.
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