South African xenophobic rampages
The anti-foreigner violence in South Africa has taken me by surprise. I never thought I'd see necklacing or police opening fire in townships again. Anyone who can remember the shocking scenes of cruelty, barbarism and mayhem from the apartheid era and the run-up to their first proper election will view the recent scenes with total dismay. This is a very sad time. Ultimately the ANC government must be responsible for:
Poverty and employment alleviation (unemployment is over 20%) in poor communities
The other issue - given that about three million of the five million immigrants are Zimbabwean refugees - is Mbeki's blinkered and intransigent support of his old mate to the North, Mugabe. It is almost impossible that had South Africa pulled the plug on Mugabe and the MDC had been in government that the economy and the country as a whole would be in a situation so dire that millions would have fled.
And what of the persecuted Zimbabweans? Do they go back home? To what? No doubt Mugabe's henchmen will make sure they never cast a ballot in the upcoming Presidential contest unless it is for Comrade Bob. This is the ANC government's making, and Mbeki's in particular.
From I luv South Africa - but I hate my government:
The police's conduct also leaves much to be desired. Apart from promising to retaliate with live ammunition should they be fired at, the SAPS has done very little to get to the bottom of how marauding groups of armed men can go from place to place and attack whoever they deem to be foreigners.
It is also common knowledge that the police are not free of the xenophobia that is so present in communities. Police harassment of foreign Africans in places such as Hillbrow, Yeoville and other inner- city communities is well known.
But what the recent pogroms in Gauteng townships point to is not just state failure. South African society as a whole stands condemned.
The violence exposes shortcomings in our society at a moral, social and political level. Considering the solidarity shown during our struggle against apartheid by our neighbours in the frontline states, the killing of foreign Africans in a so-called liberated SA is particularly appalling.
Not only did many on the continent endure military attacks, they also provided shelter, food and even employment to thousands of exiles when they needed it most. Now that it is our turn to provide sanctuary and solidarity, we repay our neighbours with murder and rape.
While it is true that there is a scramble for resources in poor communities that is often exploited by local strongmen for political gain, it does not provide all the answers to the senseless violence and the finger-pointing at foreigners. These communities have always been badly off, yet we have not seen the level of violence of recent weeks.
Moreover, the silence from community organisations such as civic structures, local churches and other grassroots bodies in the wake of the attacks is simply deafening. This silence points either to acquiescence on the part of local leaders or a complete demobilisation on the part of community organisations that formed the backbone of resistance during the struggle years. Whatever the reasons, it points to a dangerous vacuum that has already been exploited with deadly consequences.
If you want a handle on the situation on the ground and some of the rampant prejudices play the tubemeke video in the sidebar.