What the present generation of some black South Africans who recently launched a wave of xenophobic attacks on hapless immigrants from different African countries may not know is this: they have resurrected the corpse of apartheid buried to the rapturous applause of the human community in 1994 from the catacomb. To ask: Were those involved in such unfortunate and shameful attacks on fellow Africans not fully conversant with history of anti-apartheid struggle or were they suffering from amnesia to commit such a heinous crime? Again, was it not South Africa that hosted the third United Nations’ Conference against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in September 2001 and yet the country witnessed the latest outbreak of anti-foreigner violence?
Looking back, the obnoxious political and social system of apartheid in South Africa, institutionalised in 1948 and controlled by the white – minority rulers of Afrikaner background (descendants of Dutch settlers), led to the exclusion, and near decimation of the indigenous black population in the country. At the height of the boundless cruelties of the apartheid regime between 1960s and the ’80s, as egregiously shown by the Sharpeville Massacre (1960) and that of Soweto (1976), there was a surge of global outrage and concerted actions against the regime through stringent measures like severance of diplomatic ties and imposition of crippling economic sanctions by many countries, as well as protest demonstrations by anti-apartheid solidarity groups across the world.
It is interesting that a lot of things have changed for good in South Africa since the abolition of apartheid in 1994 by liberal and reform-minded President Frederick W. de Klerk and the subsequent emergence of Dr. Nelson Mandela (the Madiba
However, it is disheartening that black South Africans who suffered the suppression and inhumanity of Afrikanerdom (Afrikaner domination) for decades and whose nationalist leaders are now at the helm of political affairs have somewhat reinstated a form of evil discrimination, this time under the camouflage of xenophobia.
It is noteworthy that the rate of unemployment in South Africa is more than 24 per cent and this disturbing development, along with lack of access to social services and welfare programmes, has become a major driving force behind xenophobic outburst in a country that is seen as the continent’s most aanced economy.
In any case, the Zuma government should be deeply disturbed by the vexed issue of xenophobia in the post-apartheid South Africa. For one, the recent attacks on African migrants could make the country to lose its Mandela shine and strain its relations with other African states. For another, the attacks, apart from being a flagrant violation of international conventions on human rights like the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (or the Banjul Declaration of 1984), are a negation of the age-old belief among the blacks in South Africa about ubuntu – the philosophy that people are not just individuals but live in a community and must share things and care for each other.
While hoping that President Zuma, who has condemned the xenophobic uprising in South Africa in decisive and unequivocal terms, would bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice, while compensating the victims, his administration should go further to inculcate the idea of xenodchial or xenophilia (love and acceptance of strangers) in the psyche of its people. The administration should also exercise leadership as a means of placating the growing feeling in the country about the abandonment of the lofty principles of accountable governance, inclusion, equity and social justice by the ruling ANC – the oldest liberation movement in Africa with a proud tradition of non-racialism and opposition to tribalism and chauvinism since when it was founded in 1912.
Source : Daily Independent