I saw a status on Facebook this morning that really resonated with me, “How can one country make you so happy and so sad all at the same time?”. I share those sentiments exactly. South Africa has just come out of the proudest month of its post-Apartheid existence. Against many odds, and with the sharp eyes of the critics glaring down at us, South Africa shined bright in the eyes of the world; the spirit, enthusiasm, and unity behind the World Cup was tangible and electric, the delivery was impeccable, and FIFA boasts that it was the best World Cup in the history of their tournaments. And now, with that victory barely even under our belt, the threat of Xenophobic attacks again looms.
Are these rumors true? Are we going to see another mass slaughter of African foreigners? Well, whether they happen or not, as millions of overseas foreigners leave the country with positive feelings after a wonderful World Cup, last night the news reported that the main border between South Africa and Zimbabwe was four times busier than normal, with terrified, frustrated Africans, fleeing the country “never to return”. This makes me sad. I have many thoughts about this Xenophobia, some conflicting. Here are some:
I think the media is responsible for the “size” of the Xenophobic attacks the first time around, back in 2008. The first attack happened in a specific area, with a specific group of people. I do not believe the “movement” (if you can call it that) would have spread to other areas in the way that it did. Sure, the anger and feelings were already there, which obviously led to it happening in other areas, but I do not feel like it would have turned into what it did without the media coverage.
I do appreciate the media, this time around, for covering a story last night on how many of the foreign owned shops in the townships are now standing closed (due to looting and fear of violence), and local residents are complaining that they have to travel farther, and pay more to buy groceries. The one lady expressed that she does not care who owns the shop, as long as she can buy stuff.
I think the reasoning that “they are stealing our wives and taking our jobs” is totally absurd. First of all, many of the foreigners (and we’re talking certified doctors, lawyers, and other professionals in their country of origin) are willing to take jobs that locals do not want, and work for less. Though this might not be acceptable, it is ridiculous to get angry at the person who is willing to honestly work; take your beef up with the employers rather. And the wife thing, come on! Let’s not speak about women as though they are pirate booty or something. They are not anyone’s to be given or stolen. They can choose for themselves. So if South African women are choosing more foreign men, maybe it’s time for South African men to man up, treat women with more respect, romance them a bit, stop cheating on them, and win their hearts. Thinking they are your to be “stolen”, is probably the beginning of the problem of why they are choosing other men.
On that note, I know plenty of white (international) foreigners, with both South African jobs and wives, and husbands for that matter, and not one single one of them was attacked. Why?
And speaking of racism, these xenophobic attacks stir up all sorts of other forms of racism, masked in good will. I have heard so many white South Africans, both this time and last time around, say stupid things like, “I just can’t believe how those people turn to violence so quickly. It’s all they know,” or “I just don’t understand it that black people would attack other black people,” or even, “They just need to stop complaining and being lazy! They have everything these days. They’re just lazy.” I mean, wow! Besides the fact it is completely ignorant, this kind of talk is the verbal form of the xenophobic attacks. Let’s speak against the violence and leave our personal prejudices out of the matter. Besides, the average person making an ignorant comment like that really has no idea what it is like to live in the township, or in poverty for that matter.
I will never justify that type of violence and hatred towards anyone, but I can understand the frustrations of an average South African, still living in extreme poverty, with nothing but empty promises to feed their children. If a South African citizen is suffering, yet lives beside a foreigner who they perceive as “thriving”, then it is hard for that frustration not to boil. But again, these frustrations should be taken up with the appropriate people, the government and not the African foreigners in this case. Unfortunately for the African foreigners in the townships, the government is nowhere to be seen for the most part.
The government needs to step up in a bigger and better way. Not only in acting and speaking out against xenophobia with a stronger front, but mostly in service delivery to those who are still waiting. We now know it is completely possible. In merely six years we saw an entire infrastructure built where little to nothing was before (with most of the work being done in the past 2 to 4 years). We met the tough goals of FIFA. Now it’s time to take that same focus, energy and delivery to the communities who need it most. And the rest of the country needs to chip in and offer the spirit and support it did during this wonderful World Cup.
No matter what, when all is said and done, xenophobia and xenophobic violence is ridiculous and should not be tolerated.
Yeah, those are just some of the many thoughts I have about xenophobia.
I think I know how one country can make a person so happy and so sad at the same time. I love South Africa! I am sure the loving parents of an awkward, rebellious, angry teenager who is trying to figure out his identity in the world, often have feelings of both happiness and sadness about the choices their child makes. That teenager can come home with straight A’s and get a girl pregnant on the same day. Let’s not be one sided, or allow acts of hatred to cause us to hate. Let’s remember that South Africa is an awkward teenager of a Democracy, and rather look on it with love, and try and do what we can to mold and shape it to be a better, more responsible adult Nation. Let’s continue to love each other, this great nation, and all who choose to live in it.