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This was written in January 2013.

Utterly shameful, obscene, and inexcusable that it is true today.
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It ain’t Xenophobia? Really?
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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 and 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 …
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_____________________

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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.
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As a citizen of South Africa, I am acutely aware of the many challenges that our young country faces.
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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.
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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.
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That something is how rife ‘anti-foreigner’ sentiment is within our various, and still divided communities.
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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’.
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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.
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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.
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This was in 2008.
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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’.
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What is going on?
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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.
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The synonyms for xenophobia include racism, racial intolerance, and prejudice.
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The neo-Nazis in Europe and elsewhere are xenophobes.
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No one disputes that.
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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’.
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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.
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We are Africans.
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And above all, we are all human.
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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.
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Pogroms, xenophobic attacks, racism, intolerance, prejudice, casteism, religious bigotry, sexism, and homophobia, do not simply arise out of nothing.
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There are societal, religious, traditional, cultural and other factors that do indeed create fertile ground for some of these noxious sentiments to germinate.
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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 chucked around nonchalantly.
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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.
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As South Africans, we know just how friendly countries welcomed us during the darkest days of Apartheid repression and tyranny.
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Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, 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.
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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.
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We should never forget this.
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Ever.
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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.
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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.
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There is a simmering undercurrent of the possibility of attacks on foreigners as I type these words.
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If this is not taken seriously and dealt with, sadly we may see scenes similar to those we witnessed in 2008.

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AND IT IS HAPPENING NOW. TODAY.

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Mayibuye-i-Afrika!

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What Happens
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By Erich Fried*

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It has happened

and it happens now as before

and will continue to happen

if nothing is done against it.

The innocent don’t know a thing about it

because they are too innocent

and the guilty don’t know a thing about it

because they’re too guilty.

The poor don’t take notice

because they’re too poor

and the rich don’t take notice

because they’re too rich.

The stupid shrug their shoulders

because they’re too stupid

and the clever shrug their shoulders

because they’re too clever.

It doesn’t bother the young

because they’re too young

and it doesn’t both the old

because they’re too old.

That’s why nothing is done against it

and that’s why it happened

and happens now as before

and will continue to happen.

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* –

Erich Fried

1921-1988
Erich Fried (6 May 1921 – 22 November 1988), an Austrian poet born to Jewish
parents who settled in England, was known for his political-minded
poetry. He was also a broadcaster, translator and essayist.

Erich Fried (6 May 1921 – 22 November 1988), an Austrian poet who
settled in England, was known for his political-minded poetry. He was
also a broadcaster, translator and essayist.

Born to Jewish parents Nelly and Hugo Fried in Vienna, he was a child
actor and from an early age wrote strongly political essays and poetry.
He fled with his mother to London after his father was murdered by the
Gestapo after the Anschluss with Nazi Germany. During the war, he did
casual work as a librarian and a factory hand. He joined Young Austria, a
left-wing emigrant youth movement, but left in 1943 in protest at its
growing Stalinist tendencies. In 1944 he married Maria Marburg, shortly
before the birth of his son Hans. In the same year his first volume of
poetry was published. He separated from Maria in 1946, and they divorced
in 1952. In the same year he married Nan Spence Eichner, with whom he
had two children; David (1958) and Katherine (1961). Erich and Nan
divorced in 1965. In 1965 he got married for a third time to Catherine
Boswell with whom he had three children; Petra (1965), Klaus and Tom
(1969).

From 1952 to 1968 he worked as a political commentator for the BBC
German Service. He translated works by Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot and
Dylan Thomas. In 1962 he returned to Vienna for the first time.

He published several volumes of poetry as well as radio plays and a
novel. His work was sometimes controversial, including attacks on the
Zionist movement and support for left-wing causes. His work was mainly
published in the West, but in 1969, a selection of his poetry was
published in the GDR poetry series Poesiealbum, and his Dylan Thomas
translations were published in that same series in 1974. The composer
Hans Werner Henze set two of Fried’s poems for his song-cycle Voices
(1973).

In 1982 he regained his Austrian nationality, though he also retained
the British nationality he had adopted in 1949. He died of intestinal
cancer in Baden-Baden, Germany, in 1988 and is buried in Kensal Green
cemetery, London.

An Austrian literary prize is named after him – the Erich Fried Prize

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Erich Fried