by Robert Obioha
It is unimaginable that as advanced as South Africa is in terms of policing and militarily, that a group of disgruntled street urchins can unleash mayhem on defenceless Africans with the police looking the other way as if nothing is amiss. All the blame for this wickedness should go to the South African leadership and its security agents.
The South Africa I grew up to know was one notorious for its racist policy of apartheid under white minority rule. In apartheid South Africa, to be black is worse than the devil. To be born black is to be consigned to the backwaters of history and civilization. Black means nothing but being unwanted even in one’s own country. There were separate settlements for the whites and the black people, the original owners of the land, whose climate was also suitable to the white settlers, the colonizers who refused to go to their original home country. South Africa was rich in solid minerals and its soil is suitable for temperate and tropical crops alike. The whites and the blacks do not sit together in trains and buses amid other social inequalities
It was in this white racist country that Nelson Mandela was born. He and other like minds having suffered the human degradation called apartheid, vowed and waged a battle against it. Their own colonial experience was different from those of their counterparts in West and East Africa. In fact, apart from West Africa where the colonialists left power after heated agitations by nationalists, elsewhere in Africa with the possible exception of Ethiopia, Liberia and Sierra Leone, decolonization was met with stiff force. The North, East and Southern Africans waged serious battles to regain their freedom from foreign powers and dominions, be they French, English, Spanish, or the Portuguese. It was this scenario that provoked Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s most quoted statement of Nigerians getting their independence on ‘a platter of gold’, that is without bloodshed.
Mandela and his group of agitators were arrested, tried and put in jail. But Mandela stayed 27 years in prison before he was freed due to global outcry against the peculiar incarceration of the world most famous ‘prisoner of conscience.’ Nigeria and other African countries were in the forefront of the war against apartheid and the quest to free our brothers and sisters down South from colonial bondage and oppression. Nigeria committed lots of its human and material resources to fight apartheid. Apart from providing succour to nationalist agitators, it offered scholarships to many South Africans in Nigerian tertiary institutions. The late Nigerian pop singer, Sonny Okosuns contributed to the anti-apartheid struggles through his music. His best compositions against apartheid policy include ‘Papa’s Land’ and ‘Fire in Soweto’. From prison, Mandela forgave his jailers and went ahead and contested for the nation’s presidency and won. He ruled a freed South Africa for a single term only and used the period to build bridges of friendships across what he described as the ‘rainbow country’ because of its ethnic diversity. After his demise, the rainbow country is yet to get a leader in his mould. Indeed African countries are still searching for another Mandela. There is the need for the rainbow country to reinvent itself in terms of leadership.
Since independence, there have been cases of ethnic ruptures and violence, especially those of indigenous blacks in South Africa against other blacks from other African countries, especially Nigeria and few others. The first of such eruptions was in 2008. The xenophobia rage is hinged on the mere reason that these foreigners have taken over the jobs the black South Africans would do. Therefore, they want these foreigners to go back to their countries of origin. And to enforce this barbaric resolve, they started killing the foreigners, looting and burning their shops and other property.
The latest xenophobic attack, the most horrendous, was apparently caused by the inciting comment of the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini that foreigners should “go back to their countries.” Although, human rights bodies have condemned the barbarism, King Zwelithini should be arrested and tried for stoking the raging hate fire to serve as a warning to other African leaders that are not circumspect in speech. Let South Africans be reminded that hate speech has no place in the world, the new global village.
Whether it was King Zulu’s statement that incited the current xenophobic attacks or not, one glaring fact remained that the South African police had not acted well in the first place. Some of them stood and watch this black against black killing range ‘film.’ Their military did not respond when needed. The South African President Jacob Zuma did not act fast enough to stop the avoidable bloodshed of blacks in the rainbow country. It is unimaginable that as advanced as South Africa is in terms of policing and militarily, that a group of disgruntled street urchins can unleash mayhem on defenceless Africans with the police looking the other way as if nothing is amiss. All the blame for this wickedness should go to the South African leadership and its security agents. If South Africa does not want black immigrants in their countries, there are civil ways of doing it instead of violence meted to the black foreigners.
President Jacob Zuma and other leaders in the rainbow country should encourage their black citizens to acquire education, the basic tool that would ensure that they get jobs in highly technologically advanced South Africa. They cannot get these competitive jobs through the killing of fellow blacks or undue race riots and violence. While it is true that the blacks in South Africa see life and achievements in terms of rights in view of long years of human rights abuses in apartheid South Africa, they should face the reality that everything about life is not about human rights.
While they may have the right to education, it is not a right that they must be passed in an examination when they fail. Excelling in class is a function of individual effort. The same applies to getting jobs. The blacks in South Africa should shake off their years of apartheid and embrace the reality of the situation. The reality is that they must face competition from the whites, the Asians and their African brothers as well. They should stop being lazy. The earlier they realize this, the better for them. They should not wait until job is given them as of right.
They must be qualified before they can get jobs. They should not blame their misfortune on their fellow blacks. They should also not vent their frustrations on them too. They have apartheid to blame for their long years of cultural denigration, economic and political exploitation. Nigeria and other African countries should speak up and condemn what is happening in South Africa today before it spills over to other African countries where South Africans also reside and do business. Africa must be curbed of xenophobic attacks.
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