Xenophobia has no place in our region

THE outbreak of attacks on migrants from other African countries by South Africans, which has recorded loss of life, should be condemned in the strongest terms and leaders must make their voices heard that such has no place in our region and beyond.

A spate of violence that broke out in suburbs south of Johannesburg’s city centre on Sunday and spread to the central business district on Monday has seen an unprecedented destruction of more than 50 shops and business premises mainly owned by Africans from countries in the rest of the continent such as Nigeria and Somalia. Cars and properties were torched and widespread looting took place.

With this sadness, lest we not forget that these same African States whose citizens are today being thrown in burning flames are the same that had to sacrifice their all to liberate Africa’s youngest democracy and put an end to apartheid.

We are also reminded of former leaders like Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia who put his nation’s progress on the line because he chose to oppose apartheid. As infiltration and sabotage was frequent in all neighbouring countries, it is also worth noting that the plane crash that killed Mozambique’s then President, Samora Machel was engineered by the apartheid regime.

Furthermore, in order to support frontline countries badly affected by the sabotage and retaliation from the apartheid regime, Nigeria and Libya provided substantial financial packages to the Frontline States organization which was established to achieve democratic majority rule in South Africa. Former members included Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The East and Southern African frontline States paid the highest price for their commitment to South Africa, but the entire continent chipped in.

It is under this pretext that the violence that many are now regarding as Afro-phobic violence is a shame that casts a dark shadow on Africa’s unification agenda with both regional and continental integration agenda priorities of both the AU and SADC.

Instead of South Africans thriving on its much-vaunted multicultural identity, foreigners are again being depicted as criminals, job snatchers, and parasites. The public perception of being swamped by foreigners is easily mobilised and fuels ‘fears’ that migrants increase employment competition, challenge religious, cultural or ethnic homogeneity and increase crime, which is vehemently wrong.

The biggest problem facing the South African black working class is not foreign-owned ‘spaza’ shops but the fact that profits from industry flow to a tiny elite. Migrant workers are not to blame for the high levels of unemployment. Deporting ‘illegal’ African migrants and asylum seekers and encouraging xenophobia against fellow African and Asian migrants will not uplift the black working class whose lives seem set to continue to deteriorate unless there is a fundamental change.

Someone needs to come up with a lasting solution about this and it has to come to an end. In this century and centuries to come, it has become evidently clear that such barbaric acts no longer have a place in society and this speaks to all African countries inclusive of Namibia.