Why Afrophobia won’t go away soon: Part Two

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WHAT has shocked many, particularly those in Africa, is that the so-called ‘xenophobic’ violence in South Africa, which is periodically unleashed against migrants, is almost always directed against those who hail from the rest of the African continent.
Accordingly, to regard such violence as simply an expression of ‘xenophobia’ or the fear and hatred of the foreigner, is to gloss over issues and to generalise matters in a manner which is bound to prolong the search for a solution.
So far, no white foreigners in South Africa have been caught up in such violence or have been deliberately earmarked as targets of anti-migrant violence as blacks from other African countries.
The truth is, such violence begun with isolated attacks against migrants as far back as December 1994.
And the violence includes the destruction of their homes, property and business premises.
In 1997, migrant hawkers in Johannesburg were singled out as ‘leeches’ who, according to the chairman of the Inner Johannesburg Hawkers Committee, had to be ‘pushed out’.
In 1998, three migrants were killed on a train from Pretoria to Johannesburg.
By 2008, the volume and tempo of the violence against migrants escalated in Alexandra in Gauteng and quickly spread to other urban centres of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Western Cape and Durban in KwaZulu-Natal.
This time, 60 migrants were murdered and 500 wounded while about 100 000 were displaced.
Tragically 20 locals who were mistaken for migrants got killed by marauding mobs.
Then in 2015, the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini, announced what amounted to an ultimatum: “All foreigners in South Africa must pack their bags and go back wherever they came from.”
But King Zwelithini’s definition of foreigners did not necessarily include whites.
And his ultimatum was publicly supported by President Jacob Zuma’s eldest son, Edward, who, wittingly or unwittingly justified the King’s statement by suggesting that migrants posed a security threat and could one day carry out a coup against a democratically elected Government of SA.
What follows these two utterances is a horror story.
Africa shudders as anti-migrant violence spreads across the whole of SA.
Ultimately it takes the might of the South African army to quell the violence and to protect lives and property of migrants.
On the basis of these tragic events, it is obvious violence meted to migrants is deeply rooted and more or less endemic.
Surely it is not by mere coincidence or an accident of history that such violence is always directed at migrants from other African states and not necessarily at foreigners of Caucasian extraction?
The pattern of this black-on-black violence is consistent enough to label it as Afrophobia, a kind of self-hatred which is directed outwards towards the perceived black other.
In order to understand the kind of Afrophobia which haunts South African society today, we have to go back in history and look at how black slaves were divided and controlled by the white slave master.
One of the leading strategists and thinkers on ‘the making of a slave’ is Willie Lynch.
Whenever he delivered a public lecture on how to make a perfect and loyal slave, he would always start off by asking his white slave-owning audience to list all the differences among their slaves – ‘from age and height to gender, size, hair colour and status and to capitalise on these’.
In 1772 Lynch went on to say: “Now that you have a list of differences, I shall assure you that distrust is stronger than trust and envy, stronger than adulation, respect or admiration.
“The black slaves after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and become self-fuelling and self-generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands.”
‘Lynch’ as a name has become a verb in the English language precisely because most of Lynch’s evil ideas on how to divide and rule slaves for life have been adopted lock-stock-and-barrel by capitalists on a global scale.
Apartheid as a racist doctrine and as an administrative practice manufactured differences among blacks, exaggerated them and dramatised them endlessly in order to keep all blacks divided and weak and therefore not a threat to white hegemony.
In such a context, the existence of tribes in Africa became a base from which to launch apartheid!
In fact, apartheid went further and created Bantustans based on tribes, all in an attempt to divide Africans, to weaken them and rule them for eternity.
Here is what a prominent South African academic, Professor Rothney Tshaka of the University of South Africa (UNISA) says about Afrophobia in South Africa: “It is a manifestation of distrust and envy towards black foreigners, seen as a threat because they are able to slip undetected into the black community and thus potentially steal the jobs and women of the indigenous black South African men.”
One noticeable feature associated with Afrophobia is that it became detectable in 1994, increasing gradually throughout the late 1990s and intensifying from 2008 right up to the present.
This trajectory taken by Afrophobia tends to correspond with the period during which the euphoria about the ‘Rainbow Nation’ is gradually dying to be replaced by a sense of disillusionment.
It appears to many that the much vaunted ‘liberal’ Constitution and democracy of South Africa have delivered political freedom but not necessarily the much awaited economic benefits.
It has become obvious the liberation project which freed South African blacks in 1994 and which the rest of Africa talks so much about as part of its contribution to the demolition of apartheid has not yet delivered the expected dividends for the black majority.
In a situation which exists in South Africa where, according to Professor Tshaka: “Whiteness has been the norm for centuries and does not need to explain itself as black identity does,” the nearest and most accessible scapegoat is the black other who is a migrant from the rest of Africa.
The violence directed against this black other is part of what Frantz Fanon called an inward directed implosion taking place in black communities; an implosion which, if left to grow, will soon have violence associated with it directed at indigenous population groups in SA, along ethnic lines.
Now comes the key question concerning this Afrophobic violence: What is to be done?
Below are some of the many things which can be done:
l The ANC has no choice, but to address some of the fundamental economic challenges facing SA.
The current situation where five percent of the population owns 80 percent of the South African wealth is not sustainable at all.
In fact, it is dangerous to everyone in SA.
The mere fact that President Zuma has been talking about land reform is an indication that the ruling party is reading the unhealthy situation in the country correctly.
Land is the basis and source of all wealth and the Government has an obligation to ensure that wealth is shared equitably by all, not just by whites.
l The South African education system may need to go out of its way to mainstream the African context within which the liberation project of the country is implemented.
The tendency so far has been to foreground the statesmanship and wisdom displayed by Nelson Mandela at key moments of South African history at the expense of the actual military, political and diplomatic battles fought by South African liberation movements and their African allies.
l The Black Consciousness Movement which was led by Steve Biko generated key conversations about blackness in the South African context.
For some reason, that black consciousness seems to be fading when it should be growing and getting consolidated all over the country.
Only when all blacks in SA feel at home economic-wise will SA get to be a strong united country, secure and confident enough to accommodate others who may wish to make it their new home.

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