Xenophobia: Immigrants victims of misrule

LONDON - The barbarities by South Africans against immigrants from other African countries is appalling.

Regional governments, including Zimbabwe, are now organising the repatriation of their people.

The violence may not necessarily be explained as primordial atavism although some would insist South Africans are historically violent people.

A far less contentious proposition would explain the violence through the prism of identity and the effects of human movements to “other” social spaces, although this can never be a justification for such acts.

Whenever there are large inflows of immigration, social tensions are likely to arise, sometimes manifesting in identity-based violence.

The idea that we share a single identity as Africans seems mythical.

The events in South Africa show that we are, first and foremost, Zimbabweans, Malawians, Mozambicans and so forth after all.

The “African Union,” just as the “European Union,” is nothing but an institutional facade for our divided nationalities.

We cannot claim to have a single identity when it is so easy to kill a “fellow” African with such heinousness.

In faltering economies, immigrants become easy targets of host societies because “they are taking our jobs.”

This is not a problem peculiar to Africa.

In Europe, the issue of immigration has given rise to almost single-issue right wing parties whose campaigns rest largely on the perceived negative effects of the influx of foreigners.

In Britain, the issue is featuring prominently in the current pre-election debates.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) makes the immigration issue the centrepiece of its very own political existence. Part of its campaign draws from the theme: “British jobs for British people.”

And the party is enjoying considerable support among Britons who have witnessed unrestricted immigration from poorer European countries which they blame for the unemployment of natives.

While tensions visited by immigration are undeniable, the South Africans have taken identity-based violence to a whole new level.

Videos and images of victims circulating on social media take some courage to watch twice.

Given my apprehensions about a single African identity, I do not know what it means that such behaviour is un-African. Inhuman? Certainly.

There can never be any justification for it.

But when deconstructed, the violence points to an underlying problem of poor governance in Africa.

The South African government itself has been slow in addressing the inequalities spawned by long years of apartheid.

Comparatively though, South Africa remains a stronger economy — the reason it has become a magnet for immigrants from poorer African countries.

Our citizens have been sleeping outside the South African embassy in order to secure passage to our southern neighbour, often without intention of returning to their homeland any time soon.

Does it not bring a sense of shame to our rulers to see citizens so desperate to leave their own country?

But how have citizens of a county that held so much promise in 1980 been reduced to such desperation?

Far from the global financial crisis that has been triggering immigration in Europe, we have been architects of our own crises.

Post-colonial African governments have dreadfully failed their own people. African rulers have become masters of unconscionable self-enrichment.

Beneficiaries of patronage have amassed huge amounts of wealth, all at the expense of ordinary people.

The so-called “indigenisation and black empowerment” has become the synonym for unquestioned corruption among the black elite.

The result has been desperate inequality and deprivation, resulting in migration by job-seeking citizens.

Further, we have been hamstrung by hostile ideologies.

We cannot hope to create jobs that will absorb the unemployed if we do not abandon laws that are anti-business and the racist rhetoric.

The immigrants are, of course, victims of barbaric South Africans. But they are also victims of misrule by their government.

Repatriating them is indeed commendable. But they are only coming back to a hopeless economy.

Comments (6)

"The idea that we share a single identity as Africans seems mythical" oh come on now get serious. There is no such thing as single identity even within countries and hence why Rwanda and Zimbabwe (Gukurahundi) genocides occured. Africa countries are riddled with internal conflict and every election its a blood bath. Let's find other things to get emotional about and not feign kinship betrayal here.

Galore 123 - 21 April 2015

can see where the writer is coming from. African leaders are talking that 'we are one as Africa - African "union" blah blah.' s. africa has proved that one identity is fake when push comes to shove

pats - 21 April 2015

Which ever angle one views the issue, Africans should unite and that is why some will say Africa, we are one - this actually encourages the oneness which is healthier for development. This conduct of high level brutality to a fellow African is one which should be discouraged totally.

kuta kinte - 22 April 2015

They are victims of misrule first, before they become victims of xenophobia. That order should never be confused

Mandisa - 23 April 2015

Conrad were you chased away or you went for greener pastures? How can a person flee Zimbabwe to be vendor in SA. Why are Africans full of self hate!

godfrey gudo - 23 April 2015

You have become boringly predictable! In every article there should a twist to rubbish the government?

godfrey gudo - 23 April 2015

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