When you deal with a neighbor, you don’t just deal with them like they don’t exist. Those were ANC Secretary-General, Gwede Mantashe’s words in an interview with 3rd Degree yesterday concerning the current xenophobic attacks in SA. It did not take a rocket scientist to figure out whom he was talking about. I was reminded of what President Mwanawasa once said that a good neighbor should not just watch when a fellow neighbor’s house is on fire. Seems we’ve been getting a lot of this diplomatic politics with no action. Even Moeletsi Mbeki, the brother of our favorite mediator highlighted that the SA government hasn’t done much about the xenophobic situation, or about the issue of putting in place proper mechanisms to accommodate immigrants. The political analyst explained that this kind of thing is bound to happen when pressure piles on the poor. The situation apparently degenerated into serious competition for limited resources and opportunities, which later saw resentment grow towards ‘foreigners’ who were supposedly stealing jobs, women and accommodation of the locals. Mbeki further explained that the South African government has for so long ignored the growing shantytowns that make up most of Alexandra that in effect government helped to extend them.
The man has a point there. I shudder to imagine the kind of costs this whole excitement around the 2010 World Cup will amount to. Imagine a whole new stadium and refurbished hotels among other opulent perks to impress visitors alongside unimaginable poverty that makes up the life of a majority of South Africans.
However, I am beginning to slowly but surely understand President Mbeki. It took him a good four days after the xenophobic attacks to even say something, and all he could say was that the police needed to act more swiftly and that a panel had been formed to look into the attacks. No crisis there either hey?
Even if it’s trust that foreigners are “taking over” jobs, accommodation and even the women too, is that reason enough to actually kill them? We’ve seen harrowing footage of people being stoned or necklaced apartheid style. Not even defenseless women and children appealed to the humanity inside the perpetrators. Never mind the fact that South Africa requires Zimbabwean skills and no amount of hate-crime can change this. In fact, South Africa still lacks a lot of crucial skills. People forget that immigrants are often willing to do sometimes menial and not-so-glorious jobs shunned by locals. Should they not be recognized for that effort? Zimbabwe was at some point in history a place to be for Mozambican and Malawian immigrants who were willing to do the tasks disparaged by locals, but the tide turned and now our professionals are ones nursing the old and scrubbing toilets elsewhere. The tide can also just as easily turn for South Africans.
It is clear South Africa is not a safe destination or host for the 2010 World Cup and FIFA or whoever it is in charge ought to withdraw that privilege – even only as a boycott to show that they do not condone human rights abuses. FIFA president Joseph. S. Blatter risks eating his words that “It is a question of confidence and trust in a country like South Africa, a well organized country, able to organize this competition.” There is still two more years to go and that’s enough time to decide a new venue for this international event.
If Africans are foreigners in South Africa, I shudder to think about the whole lot that will, come 2010, flock from all corners to a country some of whose people are so unfeeling as to burn a living, breathing human being alive like a worthless effigy. How about the prospect of sheer embarrassment that when ‘foreigners’ came to Africa, they lived in perpetual and real fear of barbaric savages who have no respect for life.
on: 3rd June 08