It’s “Afrophobia” in South Africa, NOT Xenophobia! – Kehinde Fawumi

The disheartening news about the attacks on Foreigners in South Africa has been in the air for some days now. What is more sad about the issue is that, reviews here and there seem to have misinterpreted the context of the entire tragedy by labeling it “Xenophobia”.

My concern is: you don’t see Australians and Britons being chased on the streets and similar demands being placed on them that they should be leave the country. Are they not also foreigners? The police minister, Nathi Nhleko, described clearly: “What you don’t see is you don’t see Australians being chased on the streets, Britons being chased on the streets and similar demands being placed on them that they should be leave the country and so on,”.

South Africa is to many Africans what America represents to many around the world: an escape, a fresh start, a land of opportunity. When gold was discovered in Johannesburg in 1886, it was soon being mined by men from a dozen African nations. Today the country is a magnet for Congolese, Ethiopians, Malawians, Mozambicans, Nigerians, Somalis, Zimbabweans and others fleeing conflict or seeking to improve their lot. Estimates of immigrant numbers vary from 2 million to 5 million, out of a population of 51 million.

But the recent wave of xenophobia afrophobia has tarnished this image and fuelled resentment among those who accuse South Africa of an arrogant exceptionalism that looks down on the rest of the continent.

There are several criticisms and justifications flying all over the place. Some quotes (sourced) are listed below:

“The fabric of the nation is splitting at the seams; its precious nucleus – our moral core – is being ruptured,” the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation said this week.

“They beat my husband with sticks, they took everything, money, food, clothes for the baby,” said Memory, 31, wearing her last remaining T-shirt and protecting her children Mercy, four, and one-year-old John. “They said ‘if you don’t give us these things, we will kill you. We want your shoes, remove your T-shirt.’ They took everything, even passports and IDs. The police came but they didn’t do anything because they are afraid of those boys.”

“I came to South Africa for a better life and I worked for everything,” Memory said. “But we are going home empty-handed, without funds, without passports, without the kids’ birth certificates. Now we have to wait for the transport provided by the government to take us home.”

Joanna Moyo, 32, with a sick, sleeping baby tied to her back said: “I was robbed and now I don’t have anything, only my kids. I’m still worried those guys will come here and attack us. We want to go home. Even though there is nothing there, our lives are more important. I don’t think South Africa will welcome us again – they hate us now.”

Paul Manhica, 34, a car mechanic from Mozambique, said: “I chose South Africa because the living conditions are better than any other country. I believed in the rainbow nation and the peace created since the apartheid system failed. It’s a shock for me that it’s not the democratic country that I thought. I’m disappointed that an African brother could do this. It’s a lack of love in their hearts.”

“A group of people shouted at me: ‘There’s one of them. Catch him and torture him.’ Some of them were people I’ve known many years. But I believe the Lord looked after me: I ran to the mall and phoned the police. Later the attackers went from home to home and there was great destruction. I couldn’t sleep. At 1am I heard neighbours being tortured, screaming and running for their lives.”

“The profound shame that xenophobia brings on this nation is the same kind of shame that apartheid brought on the people of this land. What is so shaming is it alienates us from our neighbours and calls into question the integrity of our entire constitution. It exposes the systemic violation of injustice: today it is foreign nationals and tomorrow it will be Indians and after that it will be whites. There is anger and hatred growing among us.” – Bishop Paul Verryn, who for years gave shelter to thousands of migrants at Johannesburg’s Central Methodist church


In Durban’s impoverished Bottle Brush informal settlement, brick homes sit alongside shacks fashioned from metal sheets, wood planks and chipboard behind fences topped by razor wire. Foreign nationals were chased out last week and few residents were willing to talk, but Nana Mkhonde, 29, was frank: “Our citizens took action because they wouldn’t leave and they were being told they must leave. They came with nothing, they can go with nothing as well. I feel bad because they left crying, but we have no choice.

“They should go because we have no jobs. I’m a citizen and want to work for 150 rand a day but foreigners will do it for 70 rand a day. In the kitchens and the factories they are taking over our jobs. They bring cheap goods and we don’t know where from. They leave their countries with a lot of skills and we have nothing. Our education is not good enough.”

The governing African National Congress has condemned the violence but Mkhonde, an unemployed single mother, responded: “The government says it’s wrong because when they give jobs they help themselves. If you don’t have friends in the ANC, you get nothing. What about us? Our government is doing nothing for us. The reason we’re fighting foreigners is because of our government.”

Yet amid the gloom hovering over Chatsworth camp there was a shaft of light. Volunteers from the local community turned up with carloads of bedding, blankets, clothes, food, nappies, toilet rolls, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other essentials. Iqbal Ismail, 49, a businessman organising breakfast, lunch and supper, said: “I’ve been here since the first day. After seeing the conditions of the place, sleeping without shelter, I didn’t have the heart to go back to work.”

Sue Clark, 50, from a property company that gathered donations via a Facebook post, mused: “At the beginning of the week I was saying I’m no longer proud to be South African, but now I’m saying I’m truly proud to be South African. This is hope. Just so many people want to make a difference.”

Sourced from theguardian.

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