Home » Governance » SA Xenophobia – Street Wisdom Won’t Help [opinion]

President Mugabe once described South African Lindiwe Zulu as a “street woman” given to “stupid utterances”.

This was after Zulu, then part of President Jacob Zuma’s mediating team to the political dialogue in Zimbabwe, opposed the holding of elections which were due in 2013.

Zulu, who would issue reckless and unprocedural statements regarding the process, also did little to mask her bias towards the MDC and disdain towards President Mugabe and his party, Zanu-PF.

At some point, she described Zanu-PF’s calls for elections as “daydreaming”.

Suffice to say, Zulu became an immediate hit with the opposition and opposition media in the country — although they eventually came to grief with the holding of elections on July 31, 2013 and the trouncing of the opposition in the same.

We were all glad to see the back of the dysfunctional inclusive government and the attendant contentions.

And, too, we were happy to see the poor back of Lindiwe Zulu who made poor aertising of South Africa’s — at least in this era — diplomacy.

Zulu is now South Africa’s Minister of Small Business.

And if you thought the recklessness, stupid utterances and her less-than-impressive leadership skills were a GNU thing (President Mugabe later made rapprochement), it is probably because you have not heard of her lately.

A couple of weeks ago, she was her tragically silly, reckless and street woman-ish self.

South Africa is once again confronted with the big problem of xenophobia.

A South African boy, about 14 years old, is caught trying to rob a Somali shop — referred here to as a spaza — and the businessman shoots the poor soul.

A conflagration of xenophobia immediately ignites, targeting small, foreign-owned businesses.

Shops are looted and general carnage ensues in the poor neighbourhoods as foreigners are targeted.

At the time of writing, yesterday, four people had died.

The recent xenophobic attacks are the latest major attacks on foreigners — which happens almost every day in South Africa — since the infamous 2008 which claimed around 70 people.

It was an ugly spectacle of blood thirsty, militias hunting down foreigners, largely black and originating from Southern Africa, and killing them.

The militias would whip, stone, hack and set their victims on fire.

Moderate South Africans, who would shelter the poor foreigners would be killed, too.

A total of 21 South Africans are said to have died. There was a reign of terror and thousands of foreigners fled South Africa.

The foreigners’ only crime was being in an African country they consider to be a proverbial greener pasture — and this is not entirely correct as many will sooner know when they arrive in South Africa.

Foreigners would be doing very humble to menial jobs and staying in humble to downright squalid conditions such as those found in the shacks of Alexandra, Thembisa, Diepsloot, Honeydew, Khayelitsha, among others.

They would not be eating the fat of the land. On the contrary, they would be suffering like ordinary South Africans, or worse, and generally contributing to the well being of South Africa.

Yet these are the people that mobs would hunt down and kill.

Reason wouldn’t matter.

The rule of the mob would reign and the foreigners would be accused of anything from stealing South African jobs and squeezing out South African businesses to taking away local women.

Anyone who is rational enough would know that these accusations are utter nonsense and belong to the streets and beer halls.

Apparently, our Lindiwe Zulu is not so rational.

At the burst of the latest conflagration, Zulu offered this explanation by way of justifying xenophobia:

“Black people were never part of the economy of South Africa in terms of owning anything, therefore when they see other people coming from outside being successful they feel like the space is being closed by foreigners,” Zulu told Bloomberg.

“It’s important for the foreigners to share with the South Africans about what it is that makes it possible for them to be successful.”

That was not all.

She is quoted also saying, “You cannot run away from the fact that there are underlying issues and that our people are being squeezed out by these foreign shop owners.”

What load of bull!

Thankfully, it is not what rational South Africans including the opposition Democratic Alliance think and severe condemnation has followed the unfortunate comments from the famed street woman.

Back to her sentiments, how can a whole minister inflame the situation by repeating the unscientific and shallow justification for senseless violence?

Xenophobia itself is described as unreasonable dislike or fear of foreigners.

When enterprising foreigners see a space to do business, which Somalis and Pakistanis readily do, it is not their problem that locals have not been resourceful enough.

When foreigners opt to do menial jobs like housework, car wash, janitors and all else, is it a crime that they allow South Africans relevant dignity in not partaking of the same?

In the case of the educated ones, especially those from Zimbabwe, if they grasp concepts quickly and work as efficiently and diligently, whose problem is that?

These foreigners invariably get paid less to do more.

And to teach locals to be humble, diligent and efficient enough?

That is a stupid call — stupid as ever can.

It is the responsibility of the government to create an enabling environment for the aancement, including in skills and training, for its people.

Which is what South Africa must have been doing in the past 20 years.

The government appears to have done pretty little, including revamping the education system which is still manifestly two-tiered with blacks suffering educational apartheid.

The government, despite vast economic resources has done little to uplift the lives of the ordinary people to the extent that today, in some areas, it is a rarity to have a Blair toilet!

Generations of people have stayed in slums, which would even shock Zimbabweans whom South Africans may view with disdain.

South Africans who happen to be black, fare badly in all human development indices such as health, education, incomes and so on.

Statistics say South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world with the richest 10 percent of the population earning 58 percent and the poorest 10 percent just 0.5 percent of national income while poorest 50 percent of the population earns 8 percent of income.

This is sure to breed anger in the people.

On the other hand, it is not a simple situation but a complex one in which the black government is hamstrung by the system of apartheid it supposedly destroyed 20 years ago.

It will take courage to dismantle the system, which is to blame for the pauperisation of blacks in their motherland — not foreigners.

In fact, the enemies of South Africans are privileged whites who after stealing land from the black owners and subjecting them to inhuman treatment, refuse to let go of ill gains.

They refuse with the land, mines, banks, factories and other means of production.

Timid leaders are also to blame for pussy-footing real issues.

Not Zimbabweans — who even helped South Africa get freedom and housed its guerillas and paid heavy prices at the hands of the apartheid regime.

Not Mozambicans, Malawians, Zambians or any other African brother peoples!

South Africans, perhaps tortured by the long night of servitude under whites, have psychological problems that make them see enemies in their black brothers and sisters not the real enemies which are white thieves and bigots, hence the senseless black-on-black violence.

Interestingly, when time cause for a real revolution in South Africa, it is neighbouring and other African countries that will help South African brothers and sisters achieve self-determination in their God-given country and over their God-given resources that are currently being siphoned to countries far away across the seas.

The authorities in South Africa should have deep introspection and make up their minds on what should be done.

It is for the precise reason that South Africa remains some racist, imperialist outpost that we see inequality and inverted anger manifest in xenophobic attacks.

You get a feeling that young Julius Malema has just had a revelation, judging from his seven “non-negotiable pillars” for total economic freedom, which are: expropriation of land without compensation nationalization of mines and banks, free equality education, healthcare, houses building state and government capacity massive protected industrial development massive investment in the development of the African economy and open, accountable, corrupt-free government and society.

At least this kid knows something that people like Lindiwe Zulu, who unfortunately happen to be in government, don’t.

President Zuma should once and for all call to halt the stupidity and disaster of the likes of Zulu.

The problem is bigger, more complex for her street wisdom.

Source : The Herald