“XENOPHOBIA IN SA” - A Brief Attempt to Explain What is Going on in South Afrika at the Moment
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2017-03-01 04:48:50 UTC

*By Baba Amani Olubanjo Buntu*


To Afrikans outside South Afrika - I’m sure you are asking yourself: What
is happening in SA right now? You probably hear/see reports about violent
clashes, burning of houses and attacks on innocent people. Black South
Afrikans attacking Afrikans from other countries. Our family and close
friends have not been directly affected, but it is are literally taking
place just few blocks down from our house. And in certain areas this
increases and decreases in intensity all around the year. Media is not
doing us justice. They decide when (and when not) to make this "trend".
Actually, this nightmare is with us every single day (in different ways),
and then it escalates to higher levels at times, like now. This is a
devastating time. And it’s a long and complicated story.

There are no excuses or valid explanations for this. But it has a lot to do
with SA's unresolved past, the extreme inequalities that exist and the
boiling anger that is under the skin of many S.Afrikans. SA is often
portrayed internationally as a success-story where the ghosts of the past
have been put to rest and where most people now have a more stable income
and can enjoy a relatively functional democracy. WRONG!

The basic scenario is as follows: For the majority of South Afrikans, life
is a constant fight of impossibilities, having VERY little to sustain life.
And, having been promised for 25 years that everything will change. The
exploited masses have been underpaid and over-enslaved for such a long time
that it is "normal". The government has promised major improvements in
regards to employment, housing and public services. Some has been done, but
many communities are still in desperate needs. The disparities between
have’s and have-not’s are The psyche of many S'Afrikans have been corrupted
and lack the necessary entrepreneurial vision and energy to create a
functional "sub-economy" of self determination. There is a high level of
violence in the communities - as part of daily life.

Many people are moving to South Afrika from other countries (attracted by
the notion that in SA everyone can make a living
.), and mostly the big
cities - Johannesburg and Pretoria are seen to be places to find a source
of income and send money back home. Due to the cultural legacy of
Apartheid, most S'Afrikans have an inborn skepticism to other Black
"foreigners" (this was well internalized as Apartheid-regime set one Black
language group up against another Black language group within S'Afrika over
many decades – serving now as a separation template between S’Afrikans and
non-S’Afrikan Black people).

People who come from other Afrikan countries with little finance, can only
find a place to live in communities that are already impoverished. And,
here, the battle for survival is HARSH. As people who do not speak a
S'Afrikan language and mostly rely on linking up with their own
nationality/language group when they arrive, become "foreigners" - i.e.
seen as a threat and a danger. People who come with the intention of living
in SA for a few years (to raise finance) have a completely different
motivation and energy than SA's who have been at the bottom of society for
generations. So, when poor SA's see "foreigners" who are getting richer,
are able to buy houses, drive cars and sustain businesses - they become
even MORE of a threat. Now, next to all of this, there are also criminal
elements (as we know, crime lives nicely in already impoverished and
"lawless" communities).

We also know that crime is big business and is orchestrated by people on
higher level using people on the ground, so that they will never be caught
themselves. The people on higher level, obviously, are looking for
street-soldiers who are brave, fearless and innovative in how to maximize
profit from drugs, prostitution and other criminal activities. And, when
crime pays, we know that many of our people will be "attracted" to it, as
it actually offers big money - which again gives access to big lifestyles
(although nowhere near the riches pulled by those who are actually pulling
the strings). Some people from other Afrikan countries (mixed with some
SA's) will take the risk and create a career within crime.

If you dont know the bigger story, you can then go through certain sections
of town and observe "many Nigerians" or "many Zimbabweans" involved in
drugs and prostitution. Naturally, Nigerians employ other Nigerans and
Zimbabweans employ other Zimbabweans. This makes it look solely like a
Nigerian problem or as if Zimbabweans are the worst criminals (of course,
the truth is that only few in the Nigerian community, the Zimbabwean
community etc etc are actually involved in crime). Since many non-SA feel
unsafe with SA's (due to violent attacks mounted against “foreigners”),
they set up shops next to people of their own nationality, stay close to
each other and operate support networks with each other. This is what is
meant when SA's claim that "Nigerians are taking our jobs" etc. Of course,
it is not true. Also, the allegations that "all these foreigners are here
illegally" has another side; getting papers in SA is an absolute night
mare. Systems are incredibly slow and people queue for years on years, as
regulations change and the service stations are messed up. This means that
many people do not have official papers, due to slow systems.

Back to the point that to some non-South Afrikans, crime becomes the only
option. Now, many "regular South Afrikans", who do not take into account
what I have explained here, face living conditions where they (on top of
struggling with housing, water, sanitation etc) now also see their own
children and youth being lured into criminal lifestyles that seem to be run
by "foreigners". Remember what I said about the SA psyche. With these
scenarios added, rage starts to build up due to the powerlessness
experienced. And, often, when people are powerless, they need a scapegoat.
And they need an outlet. Being upset at government doesn’t really work
(although there are many protest rallies against non-existing government
services, too). Being upset with other people who are equally powerless
appears to work. So hysteria develops and what has started as legitimate
concerns develop to devastating thirst for blood. Reason is erased and
marches take the form of hooliganism. People agitate and a spirit of
craziness erupts where outcries like "kill them" and "get them out" becomes

This is how some shops of "foreigners" are burnt (some may have been used
for criminal activities, but many innocent people are harmed in such raids
too). In addition to what may have been started by incensed SA community
residents, there are SA criminals and "lose elements" who join these
marches and escalates the levels of disgruntlement and anger to insane
proportions. Such rallies end up being unbelievably violent and
meaningless. It is actually scary.

I insist to call this AFRIPHOBIC violence, not Xenophobia. Xenophobia is
fear of those that are actual “strangers”. Afrikans cannot be strangers or
“foreigners” in Afrika. What we see here is an extreme form of an element
we can trace in all Black societies across the world; variations of
self-hatred expressed as rage against our own. This is the same
Black-on-Black violence we can see in many places across the Afrikan world.
White Supremacy has disempowered the Afrikan being to such levels that it
only reacts with violence. And instead of directing this violence towards
those who actually represent an enemy (in South Afrika it would “make
sense” if such rage was expressed against whites who own most of the land,
the economy and the production), it is meted out against representations of
“The Black Other”. It is a twisted and dark psychology that expresses
itself in many sick ways. In this instance, it ties in with the generations
of pain, silence, denial, oppression, looting and dehumanization that Black
SA’s have accumulated and never resolved. I repeat, this is NOT an excuse
or an explanation that justifies what is going on. It just gives a
rational. Without us resolving these issues, we will continue to have
outbreaks of this – and even worse – scenarios.

I believe - in addition to everything mentioned above - there are outside
instigations, white interests working in the shadows and corruption with
state organs involved in this, too. The only relief is that this is NOT the
mentality of the majority of S.Afrikans. Most S.A's are against such
violence (although I charge that not enough SA’s are voicing their disgust
strongly enough). The devastating part is that not enough is being done to
prevent and stop such violent outbreaks, from the side of state organs and
government. This paralyzes society. And the institutions that could help to
stop this seem part bewildered, part ignorant and part wanting this to
happen. It is devastating.

There are human rights groups and community organizations involved in
creating dialogue, calm the tensions and trying to resolve conflicts. But,
issues of this nature need a STRONG involvement from state organs; a clear
and resolute intervention to put a complete stop to this ridiculous
violence. Secondly, poverty MUST be addressed. At the root of all this are
issues of grave inequality and inhuman living conditions. Thirdly, once
this is addressed, dialogues and entrepreneurial exchange/collaboration
must be infused into every community. Not just talks, but practical
experiences of co-existence. Our company have several modules that we have
infused in a number of communities on such issues. But, we are helpless
when insane flames of violence are towering above us.

I hope this gives a bit of a picture of what is happening to those who are
outside the country.

The struggle continues!


*Baba Buntu is a Pan-Afrikan activist-scholar and community-teacher hailing
from Anguilla. Went to Azania/SA first in 1993 and repatriated permanently
in 2000 - now living and operating the company eBukhosini Solutions in
Executive Director

Our web: www.ebukhosinisolutions.co.za
Our Facebook: www.facebook.com/ebukhosinisolutions/
My YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/bababuntu
My Skype: baba.buntu
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