It was an enduring date in history. On the Feb. 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela triumphantly walked into freedom out of the front gate of the notorious Victor Verster Prison in suburban Cape Town with his wife Winnie, after 27 years in prison.
Following the 1994 non-racial historic election Mandela emerged as the first democratically elected SA’s President. With his unprecedented reconciliation among races after half a century long hated apartheid SA undoubtedly became the world capital for liberty in the 21th century! The deafening collapse of apartheid and the repeal of separatist laws (the most repugnant being the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act, Act No 49 of 1953 that profiled all public amenities, public buildings, and public transport with “EUROPEANS ONLY” and “Non-Europeans Only” signs) marked the end of history of oppression of black majority by the white minority.
The latest round of xenophobic attacks against African immigrants in SA reportedly instigated by the Zulu King in the Kwazulu-Natal region in South Africa has sadly reopened an unwanted chapter in the history of oppression, albeit perpetrated by hitherto oppressed blacks of SA. Similar attacks in January this year claimed several lives as looters burned businesses owned by foreigners. In 2008, some seven years ago, in Johannesburg anti-immigrant violence claimed many innocent lives. Most of the victims were Zimbabweans who had fled repression and dire economic circumstances. The world had rightly condemned these serial xenophobic attacks on innocent African workers as grossly unwarranted, condemnable and unacceptable. The South African President, Mr Jacob Zuma said: “These attacks go against everything we believe in. The majority of South Africans love peace and good relations with their brothers and sisters in the continent.”
The critical question is: if majority of South Africans desire good relations, why would the minority predominate perpetrating mayhem against other Africans contrary to the objective of the Constitutive Act of the Africa Union (AU) launched in 2002 by the Heads of State and Government of the Member States? The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa, in September 2001 with a Declaration and Program of Action that commits Member States to undertake a wide range of measures to combat racism and discrimination at the national levels. President Zuma and other African leaders must implement the resolutions of the Durban conference instead of being ‘academic’ with criminal perpetrators of xenophobia. What is needed is leadership and good governance to prevent and apprehend Xenophobia. Increasingly South Africa is acquiring dubious distinctions for being in one breath the ‘rape capital of the world'” and in another “a xenophobia capital of the continent”. At the root of xenophobia is the crisis of governance in Africa continent. With unemployment rate averaging 50 per cent, Africa is a huge time bomb about to explode. Indeed it is already exploding.
Last week, as many as 400 Africans, including Nigerians and Ghanaians perished in the Mediterranean Sea in an unprecedented wave of migration toward Europe! Three hundred years after the abolition of forced transatlantic slavery, it is a sad commentary that we are witnessing new slavery occasioned by lack of jobs and collapse of enterprises in African countries. Whence the jobs for a continent taunted by IMF and the World Bank as growth zone (growth rate as high as 5 per cent)? Why would prevailing unemployment degenerate into black- on- blackpoor-on-poor violence in major townships of SA while SA’s government watches helplessly? Africa’s founding fathers certainly had a vision of beneficiation and worked their vision through aggressive industrialisation and internal articulation of their economies which in the 60s and 70s which made them ahead of countries like China, India, Indonesia, etc, in terms of manufacturing value added and mass job creations. Alas today, we are inaertently back to deindustrialization of the colonial era and massive unemployment.
Africa is a resource rich continent yet it has low levels of industrialisation, with materials being exported in its raw forms. Some African leaders gullibly agonize about ‘resource curse’ when the founding fathers long foresaw resource blessings, promoted g industrial policies that recognized manufacturing as a key engine of growth for national economies. The consequences include what are embarrassingly at hand, xenophobic attacks for limited job opportunities. The distribution of manufacturing activity in SA, measured by the dollar value of manufacturing value added (MVA), is highly skewed. Indeed with the exceptions of South Africa and Mauritius, MVA per head in the 15 most industrialized countries is very low which explains the influx of Immigrants. South Africa is the only country in which manufacturing plays a major role in both domestic output and export.
Nigeria that once in the 70s and early 80s boasted robust manufacturing sector, contributing as much as 25 per cent of GDP, has fallen down the manufacturing ladder to less than 5 per cent of GDP, relying on its extractive sector of oil and gas with very little value addition. Africa must learn from China to industrialize and create jobs. Chinese are not dying jumping into the sea to Europe because they are meaningfully engage at home. The xenophobic attacks in South Africa are a reflection of the crisis of governance in Africa as reflected by the worsening poverty and unemployment rate in the continent. It can happen anywhere. South Africa must promote civic education among its citizens to let them know that many Africans sacrificed for the liberation and the freedoms South African’s enjoy today. South Africans need some tolerance of other Africans in need of economic survival.
Source : Daily Trust