An African beacon loses its shine

2015-04-26 16:00

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Owing to my participation in Big Brother Africa, a show that brought together participants from African countries and was hosted in Johannesburg, my experience with housemates from the continent, particularly those from South Africa, was that the country was the melting pot of Africa (or so we thought).

In 2008, when the first xenophobic attacks occurred, I was shocked and horrified that such a thing could happen in the rainbow nation.

Like my fellow Ugandans, we watched on the internet and TV news channels as the attacks unfolded.

We hoped something would be done, that something would come from the South African government and the governing ANC.

Alas, that did not happen. Now in 2015, xenophobia has again reared its ugly head, at the expense of foreign lives lost in a country that many on the continent view as a beacon of development in Africa.

Back home in Uganda, it seemed like South Africa had a problem with foreigners.

Last year, the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, protested about South Africa’s visa restrictions on Ugandans.

She expressed disappointment with the treatment meted out by South Africa to those people seeking visas.

I would like to challenge the ANC government, more especially Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, to do more to actually bring an end to the roiling tension that exists between South Africans and foreigners.

I must commend the minister for apologising to foreigners for the attacks, reintegrating displaced foreigners and telling foreign ambassadors that the South African government’s priority was “first and foremost [to] protect human life”.

But I have yet to see a statement of commitment that addresses the current situation and demonstrates political will, and the active involvement of the ANC and Gigaba’s office on this problem.

Right now, I see a great deal of cohesion of South African civil society, including political and religious leaders, and other “forces” outside government, coming together on this issue. One example is the peace march that was held in Durban more than a week ago.

But back home, we are worried.

We are on the phone with our people in Durban and other parts of South Africa.

So far, the best we can do is to comment on Twitter and Facebook, and share quotes online and sign petitions.

Wasake is a 2011 Big Brother Amplified contestant and a Ugandan communications consultant

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