wrote this a while ago.

Sadly true today.

It ain’t Xenophobia? Really?

it’s not xenophobia,
the refrain is the same,

it’s the criminals to blame,

we still won’t be calling the attacks by their stinking name,

‘xenophobia’

yes,

that’s what it is,

but,

let us not be simplistic,

we have to face the ugliness of our collective shame,

because when mostly ‘foreigners’ get put to the flame,

how can we ignorance feign?

it’s xenophobia,
simple & plain,

with poverty & unemployment barrelling on a runaway train,

and it won’t just ‘go away’,

for as long as ignorant complicity continues to reign …

       _____________________

‘Xenophobia’ is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as:

” noun:

intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries  “

The synonyms for xenophobia are:

chauvinism, racial intolerance, racism, dislike of foreigners, nationalism, prejudice.

     _____________

As a citizen of South Africa, I am acutely aware of the many challenges that our young country faces.

The iniquities of our tortured past, the legacy of Apartheid, socio-economic issues etc. are just a few of the many problems that South Africa is grappling with.

What is extremely disturbing for me is something that I have personally encountered, in conversations with friends, family, and fellow citizens from all walks of life.

That something is how rife ‘anti-foreigner’ sentiment is within our various, and still divided communities.

I have heard the most atrocious, insensitive, hate-filled utterances regarding the ‘foreigners’ who ‘take our jobs’, and ‘take our women’, and ‘are the cause of all the crime’, and ‘they must go back to their countries’, and most chillingly ‘we will kill these foreigners’.

I am also aware that many intellectuals, think-tanks, NGO’s, and sociologists etc. have written and spoken volumes about how the failure of proper service delivery by the government and local municipalities, and the myriad other shortcomings that plague our country have played a part in the emergence of this abhorrent xenophobic sentiments that are being spouted almost as if one was talking about culling animals in the Kruger National Park.

We have already witnessed the scourge of xenophobia, and not long ago, when organised bands of people marked, attacked and killed ‘foreigners’ in a frenzy of blood-letting and looting.

This was in 2008.

And today, as the father of the nation, Nelson Mandela lies ill in a hospital bed in Pretoria, I hear similar disturbing and blood-curdling hate-speech directed against ‘the foreigners’.

What is going on?

Where and how have we, as a country, failed, or more worryingly, chose to ignore the signs of this cancer that has to be dealt with, and dealt with as a matter of national priority.

The synonyms for xenophobia include racism, racial intolerance, and prejudice.

The neo-Nazis in Europe and elsewhere are xenophobes.

No one disputes that.

The neo-Nazis in Europe and elsewhere talk in almost exactly the same terms when they spout their rhetoric, when they go on ‘Paki-bashing’ sprees in England, when they deface Synagogues and Mosques and Temples, or when they beat up and kill ‘foreigners’ who ‘take our jobs’, and ‘take our women’, and ‘are the cause of all the crime’, and ‘they must go back to their countries’.

What is particularly disturbing about the rise of xenophobia, especially in the South African context is the complicity of silence, and by extension, a shocking acceptance of these racist and murderously dangerous views, by ‘normal’ citizens.

We are Africans.

And above all, we are all human.

This may seem like an obvious and unnecessary fact to point out, but when certain friends, family members, and people one interacts with daily, spew such xenophobic drivel, it needs to be taken seriously.

Pogroms, xenophobic attacks, racism, intolerance, prejudice, casteism, religious bigotry, sexism, and homophobia, do not simply arise out of nothing.

There are societal, religious, traditional, cultural and other factors that do indeed create fertile ground for some of these noxious sentiments to germinate.

It is incumbent on us all, people, just people, to engage with people, however close they may be to us, and challenge and make our voices heard that we will not stand mutely by, as such hate-filled venom is flung around nonchalantly.

We cannot be conspicuous by our silence and inaction when a large segment of our society, those who have chosen our country to be their home, often fleeing economic hardship, political and social violence, and numberless other factors that force, and this is important, people are forced into leaving their countries, often making hazardous and painful journeys in order to find safe-haven amongst fellow human-beings.

As South Africans, we know just how friendly countries welcomed us during the darkest days of Apartheid repression and tyranny.

Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola, and the other ‘front-line’ states paid dearly for offering South Africans fleeing Apartheid a place of refuge as well as a base of operations against the oppressive Apartheid system.

Apartheid agents and security forces attacked, fomented insurrections against the governments in the front-line states, and still South Africans of all races, creeds etc. found a welcome home in these comradely countries.

We should never forget this.

Ever.

Our government needs to be more vocal about its stance on xenophobia, and by doing so it will send a message that it will not stand by idly while people from other parts of the continent are constantly under the threat of being attacked.

That said, we as citizens have a voice, and it is morally incumbent on all of us to do our bit so that the scourge of xenophobia is excised from this land.

There is a simmering undercurrent of the possibility of attacks on foreigners as I type these words.

If this is not taken seriously and dealt with, sadly we may see scenes similar to those we witnessed in 2008.

Mayibuye-i-Afrika!

The Struggles Continue!

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