South AFrica Waging A War Against Its By Mark Olusoji Alani-Bambe
Just when Nigerians were celebrating the relatively peaceful conduct of the 2015 elections and the emergence of a people oriented government, we all woke up to news of the infamous xenophobic attacks in the Republic of South Africa. What a killjoy! My heart goes out to Nigerians and other Africans who are victims of this malady which by all standards is unacceptable and in fact condemnable. Until now, I have personally rated the Republic of South Africa as a leading African country where democracy has found its root and its tenets well embedded (Fundamental Human Rights being a tenet of democracy). The Republic of South Africa over the years have given the world this impression. Recent developments has however given us a true picture of that nation called the Republic of South Africa. Even though there has been negligible reported pockets of violence against foreigners in South Africa in the past, One can hardly imagine that citizens of a nation which Nigeria stood by in its trying moments can quickly turn against it, slaughtering its citizens at will and carting away their legitimate and hard-earned properties in broad day light. Nigeria issued at once, over three hundred passports to facilitate assylum-seeking the Republic of South Africa citizens during the apartheid era. Nigerian musician, Sonny Okosun in 1977 wrote the hit song- “fire in Soweto” in honour of black South Africans during the apartheid era. The gravity of attacks against Nigerians are to say the least virulent, brutal and overwhelming as children are now not even spared. What a way to pay back!
For foreigners, life in the Republic of South Africa is now hellish, brutish and short! Until now the realities of the word xenophobia was already fading away and being replaced by less offensive words like ethnicity, the People of the Republic of South Africa has however brought it back to the front burner. What a shame! Wikipedia has described Xenophobia as the unreasoned fear of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange. It further says Xenophobia can manifest itself in many ways involving the relations and perceptions of an ingroup towards an outgroup, including a fear of losing identity, suspicion of its activities, aggression, and desire to eliminate its presence to secure a presumed purity. The people of the Republic of South Africa has exhibited all of the above including a devilish purity.
Zulu King Godwill Zwelithi’s utterances on March 23rd can be said to have launched the Zenophobic attacks in South Africa and he had refused to apologize, even after finding out that his people have maimed, killed and destroyed businesses belonging to black foreigners which he claimed we’re not his intentions. He’s still insisting that foreigners should go back to their countries but tried to save face by saying attacking the foreigners is not how to chase them away. He wants the government to do it legally. The Zulu king was quoted to have said “We are requesting those who come from outside to please go back to their countries. The fact that there were countries that played a role in the country’s struggle for liberation should not be used as an excuse to create a situation where foreigners are allowed to inconvenience locals. I know you were in their countries during the struggle for liberation. But the fact of the matter is you did not set up businesses in their countries.” If not coming from a King, I would have by any means considered such a statement irresponsible, I would rather say it is insensitive, resentful, full of hate, largely acrimonious and rancorous.
The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action speaks loudly and urges all governments to take immediate measures and to develop strong policies to prevent and combat all forms and manifestations of racism, xenophobia or related intolerance, where necessary by enactment of appropriate legislation including penal measures. The Republic of South Africa is privy to this but has acted far from it.
However if The Republic of South Africa has any genuine reason to banish foreigners and isolate itself from the comity of nations, it is free to do so. The Zulu King captured his genuine feelings when he said his three major complaints and why he wanted foreigners to go were; 1. South African traders in the townships said they could not compete with the prices that foreign-owned businesses were selling their products. 2; foreigners were involved in violent crimes . 3. Lack of respect shown by foreigners to locals. The the Republic of South Africa as a sovereign nation is free to pursue its foreign policies with little or no interference and whenever it wants foreigners on its land no more, it should be done with and within legal framework and without gashing of flesh and spilling of blood. Meanwhile, let’s see how far it can go in doing this.
“It is safe to first pursue the thief from without before dealing with the traitor from within” says the Yoruba adage. As much as we castigate the government and people of the Republic of South Africa, we shouldn’t spare the Nigerian government of the blame as successive governments has squandered and embezzled the common wealth of the nation. The irresponsible nature of the Nigerian governments has continued to gradually and systematically force its citizens to emigrate to other (even smaller) countries for various reasons with seeking greener pasture and qualitative educational pursuit toping the list. Nigeria has been turned to an infertile nation infested by cancerous politicians who have torn our national fabric into shreds and left its citizens hapless. It will be close to the truth to say that it is the dream of every Nigerian to either work, study, live, seek medical attention or even die abroad. What a shame! What an embarrassment! What an ignominy! What a dishonour to the giant of Africa.
However, as it is, all hope is not lost. Nigeria will be great again! Our dry bones shall live again. Our cultural, moral and ethical shall be restored. Nigerians will be proud to be Nigerians again.
Nigerians have clamoured for a change and they have seen its realisation. General Muhammadu Buhari is the beacon of hope, and it is in the change He brings Nigerians trust.
I once again commiserate with the victims of the infamous Xenophobic attacks in the Republic of South Africa as I call on the whole world to condemn the people of the Republic of South Africa to condemn such an inhuman action. God bless Nigeria.
~Mark Olusoji Alani-Bambe is an Abuja based Legal Practitioner, a Dispute Resolution Specialist and an Inter-Faith Peace Advocate. (firstname.lastname@example.org; 08036963059)