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EDITORIAL: Xenophobic Madness In Former Apartheid Enclave

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Some xenophobic bigots in the former apartheid enclave, South Africa, were reported to have torched six guesthouses owned by Nigerians in that country. This is in addition to physical attacks on some Nigerians, including a woman and her baby. Early last year, at the peak of a wave of xenophobia in that country, we wrote an editorial with the above caption. The views we expressed in it, at that time, are still cogent even today. We are reflowing that editorial to remind the South African government that enough ought to be enough.

Xenophobia can be variously defined as an irrational fear of foreigners or of anything foreign. An intense fear or dislike of foreign people, their customs and culture, or foreign things. Whatever is the definition, xenophobia is a reality of life in South Africa as their youth, urged on by the condemnable passivity of the leaders, political and cultural, visit violence on their fellow blacks from all around Africa. They give all manner of reasons for this despicable behaviour that runs counter to all that is human and decent. For these misguided black South Africans, their brothers from other countries pollute their environment, commit crimes and spread diseases. They are also accused of stealing jobs and sponging off basic government services. The government of South Africa, instead of addressing the issue that has everything to do with jealousy, rationalises the rascality and insists that criminality is behind the attacks and not xenophobia. Even if this assertion is true, that country has laws and courts where those perceived criminal acts can be controlled based on internationally recognised best practices.

From reports, we are informed that victims of these attacks lose their lives. Lucky ones lose their hard earned property and means of livelihood. They are told to go back to wherever they came from. Some of these attacks bring back memories of apartheid. We recall that in that era, these same Africans now under xenophobic siege put their own wellbeing on hold to help rescue from the evil system those they rightly, then, saw as their brothers and sisters. In Nigeria, for instance, South African students were given scholarships that were not available to Nigerian students. Those students even with excess money in their pockets indulged in binge drinking habits and excessive sexual predilections and were accepted in the spirit of African brotherhood. Money and other resources meant for economic development were channelled to the apartheid struggle. Nigeria, in particular, as far as she is from that region, geographically speaking, was adopted as a frontline state alongside countries like Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Frontline States (FLS) as a term was defined as a loose coalition of African countries from the 1960s to the early 1990s committed to ending apartheid and white minority rule in South Africa and Rhodesia. Nigeria, awash then with petro-dollar, undertook that task with an uncommon missionary zeal. She mobilised her entire population- intellectuals, artistes and all in pursuit of a policy that was seen as appropriate for the emancipation of our black kit and kin.   Free South Africa was a war song that all Africans responded to in a manner that defined African-ness in its pristine best.

The irony of what is going on now, in our view, is that South Africans are all over Africa living their lives and carrying on their businesses in peace without molestation. In Nigeria, for example, South African companies are everywhere and supporting their international operations with proceeds from their investments in the country. Before MTN, the Global System for Mobile Telecommunication (GSM) network, for instance, came to Nigeria, it was just another struggling business enterprise in South Africa. It acquired the status of an international conglomerate when it came to Nigeria and its fortunes became so robust because Nigerians accepted it without minding who owns it.

Curiously, in our opinion, the African Union (AU) has not thought it necessary to speak up and take a firm position on the madness in that former apartheid enclave. Some African countries are even taking the easy way out by evacuating their citizens.

Black South Africans must be made to understand that no nation is an island. No matter how rich their maniacal propensities drive them to believe they are, the principle of inter- personal and even international relations ought to teach them that they are likely to have something to benefit from that poorer next door neighbour. We are aware that youth groups in countries whose citizens are being maltreated by these little minds are threatening to carry out reprisal attacks on South Africans living in their own countries. The matter must not be allowed to degenerate to that level. That is why we are calling on AU and Nigeria, in particular, to take the lead in taming the dragon of xenophobia on the loose in South Africa.



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