Xenophobia: Not in my name!

2015-04-17 16:45

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The current spate of violence characterised by attacks on foreigners is by all accounts the most difficult to comprehend and painful to witness.

It re-awakens painful memories of the xenophobia events of May 2008, which we thought were never to be repeated.

Without levelling blame or casting aspersions, there are obvious avenues that we ought to collectively look into and decisively intervene on in the immediate to long term.

South Africa’s current reality is that of high levels of unemployment, particularly among the youth and it would be foolhardy to want to view and analyse the current state of affairs outside of this reality.

Without a doubt there is a great and urgent need to decisively intervene in the socioeconomic condition of our communities and its population, particularly the condition of young people. Our approach and interventions need to be more urgent. South Africa, similarly to most countries on the continent, has the largest youth population, commonly known as the youth bulge.

Sadly, it appears that at times, energies of this large youthful population are often channelled towards disruptive activities. This is thus a clear indication that if not carefully guided these energies can be misdirected or even manipulated by those with malicious intents. It is at this point that young people must collectively take a stand against these unwarranted and violent attacks, and loudly proclaim “not in my name”.

Second, and equally important, civic education is critical to raise levels of social consciousness among communities, particularly young people. It will understandably not be easy to convince communities into a dialogue when they do not know where their next meal will come from.

However, South Africa has proven itself time and again as a country whose citizens understand the importance of dialogue towards finding common solutions, and if there is any moment for such, it is the current.

Article 17 of the African Youth Charter (to which South Africa is a signatory) on peace and security states that, in view of the important role of youth in promoting peace and nonviolence and the lasting physical and psychological scars that result from involvement in violence, armed conflict and war, states, parties shall strengthen the capacity of young people and youth organisations in peace building, conflict prevention and conflict resolution through the promotion of intercultural learning, civic education, tolerance, human rights education and democracy, mutual respect for cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, the importance of dialogue and cooperation, responsibility, solidarity and international cooperation.

Despite what may for now appear as fundamental differences among ourselves, let us not forget that we have emerged from a bitter, unjust and divided past, but we can today live side by side as a result of the role played by neighbouring countries at a time when we truly needed solidarity.

We are at a point where we need to convince each other through peaceful means that there is more that brings us together, than that which appears to tears us apart.

* Khathu Ramukumba is the chief executive of the National Youth Development Agency

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