The nasty acts of xenophobia, which have claimed five lives this week only, have received a serious backlash from all quarters in South Africa, isolating the few that perpetrated them.
On Thursday, about 5000 people, including religious leaders and influential politicians, marched in South Africa’s coastal city of Durban against xenophobia.
Marchers in Durban sang solidarity songs, with many saying it was about time that all South Africans stood up for their brothers and sisters “because we are all Africans.” “It’s so important to show our support because xenophobia should not be tolerated,” one marcher told Al Jazeera on Thursday.
President Jacob Zuma called for peace in Thursday’s question and answer session in parliament. Zuma called the xenophobic violence “shocking and unacceptable” and said “no amount of frustration can justify the violence taking place.”
International Relations Minister, Maite Nkoana Mashabane, was in a meeting with ambassadors and diplomats from other African countries at the time of writing this article. The meeting was aimed at discussing the latest wave of xenophobic attacks in the country.[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”10″]
King Goodwill Zwelithini, the Zulu monarch who has been accused of starting the whole thing after he called on all foreigners to go back to their countries, has expressed shock and dismay at the unfolding events. He has called for an Imbizo, a high-level meeting with all his subjects on Monday. He has millions of them. The King, whose subjects really listen to him, is expected to call them to order and ask them to stop attacking foreigners.
Once again, South Africa this week got torn apart by bitter debates about how to handle immigrants following the resurgence of xenophobic attacks on Africans from other countries in the port city of Durban this week.
The attacks also correctly unleashed a barrage of criticism with several public figures including actress Terry Pheto and radio personality, Pabi Moloi posting anti-xenophobic messages on social media this week. There were also many influential South Africans that voiced their anger at the attacks.
The outrage against foreigners is driven by one major falsehood. Many South Africans see foreigners moving into their cities or townships and fret about changes to the traditional fabric of society. Indeed this is a falsehood.
Comments made by the Zulu monarch, Goodwill Zwelithini, are a perfect example of this. Speaking at a moral regeneration event in KwaZulu-Natal’s Pongola, north of Olundi, where his homestead is situated, Zwelithini allegedly said foreigners should go back to their countries.
But people who make these comments and the actual attackers of foreigners should know that South Africa’s major commercial centres of Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town are global cities. Thousands of people come from across the planet to start small businesses, work in consultancies, banks, theatres, hospitals, the media and higher education in these cities.
It will be tough to hold up internationally competitive businesses if important and creative people are kept out by a hostile and obstinate sentiment against foreigners.
South Africa’s major centres are recognised as being among a number of competitive, creative and open cities. A major part in this standing should be their ability to appreciate foreigners and to allow them to settle peacefully into an accepting and vibrant setting.
Lagos, Nairobi and Luanda – which are African cities this writer has visited by the way – really do appreciate foreigners.
It would be dreadful if such a feat were to be lost because of the fleeting risk presented by anti-foreigners’ emotion that is currently pushed by a few in South Africa’s major centres.
A large part of South Africa’s major centres’ attraction is their multi-ethnic nature. They are so much more global now than, say, 30 years ago, and so much more diverse.
That makes it pretty much unconceivable for us to go back to the past.
My 11-year-old daughter has classmates from Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to name just a few, and she has never had complaints about them. The kids like each other big time and I am sure this is replicated throughout South Africa’s adults.
I have hundreds of friends from Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, the DRC, Kenya and Angola. We discuss everything from women to politics, to business and corruption over a bottle of expensive and delicious Scotch Whiskey. And I like them more than some of the South Africans I happen to come across in my work as a financial journalist.
This has made me remember how boring the dark old evil days of apartheid were when South African cities hardly had any Africans from other countries? What a fool’s wonderland we lived in.
The government – whose head admitted this week that it has been slow to address the concerns that South Africans and foreigners alike raised in the past – needs to recognise South African cities’ exceptionalism as they start to fix the heads of a few xenophobic people in the country.
The few that were involved in these attacks are going to be arrested and severely dealt with by the law and South Africa will not have these incidents again.(VENTURES AFRICA)