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Xenophobic attacks in South Africa three weeks ago that left seven foreigners dead, among them two Zimbabweans, were an unfortunate incident that should never be allowed to happen again, a South African National Defence Forces general, Brigadier-General Rudzani Maphwanya, said yesterday.

Brig-Gen Maphwanya said South Africans needed to be educated for them to appreciate that “we are all Africans and our being cannot be separated” from the rest of Africa.

Speaking on the sidelines of the SADC Special Forces Conference and training here yesterday, Brig-Gen Maphwanya said colonially engineered boundaries should not define the social being of South Africans today.

“Your Africanness cannot be defined by the colonial boundaries. Xenophobia is an unfortunate event that should not have been allowed to rear its ugly head either in South Africa or any other country in the region,” said Brig-Gen Maphwanya.

Although xenophobia had occurred, he said stressed that it was not every South African who suffered from xenophobia. He said some of the attacks were perpetuated by criminal elements.

He said the geographical location of the attacks reflected socio-economic inequalities that could not be ignored.

“If you check where this thing (xenophobic attacks) happened, it shows that it was not in the leafy suburbs but the poorest of the poor and the socio-economic conditions they are living in cannot be ignored. It’s a scramble for the meagre resources, which ended up pitting brothers against brothers, sisters against sisters. Some South Africans do not have an understanding of the colonially imposed boundaries,” he said.

“Our being and social understanding cannot be divorced from the colonial boundaries and those boundaries should not actually define our social being. What is important is our Africanness. If understood in that context, the question of xenophobia is just an unfortunate thing that should not have happened.”

Brig-Gen Maphwanya was domiciled in the country from 1985 to around 1990 before living in countries in the region such as Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi.

“Some of us who stayed in African countries – I have stayed in Botswana, Swaziland, Angola, Zimbabwe, among others – were never subjected to any form of discrimination. So it becomes a very sorry situation for some of us. We cut our teeth literally in the Frontline States. Some of the people in those countries died while protecting us,” he said.

The South African Government was forced to deploy troops in hot spots after police failed to control rampaging hooligans, some of whom were captured on camera killing a hapless Mozambican national, Emmanuel Sithole.

Source : The Herald