It's easy to become xenophobic
A few years ago I was trying to get a builder to come in and fix something at home but they were all too busy to even talk to me. When I did eventually manage to get hold of one his prices were astronomical.
What happened was that a lot of Brits and Germans had made use of a weak rand at the time and had bought properties on the Cape Peninsula as though there was no tomorrow. And then they'd hogged all the builders, electricians and plumbers and thought nothing of paying inflated prices because to them even the biggest rip-off was cheap at the price.
I must admit to first having distinctly bad thoughts about the Brits and Germans and then worrying about what would happen to all sorts of prices in this country if foreigners happily just kept paying over the odds.
On the basis that xenophobia is a "fear of foreigners" then I suppose I was xenophobic.
Over the past week I have been thinking that if it was so easy for me to become xenophobic then how hard can it be for someone to become seriously xenophobic when a foreigner moves into what you thought was your RDP house and taking what you thought should be your job?
The problem is that xenophobia is only xenophobia when it’s in the mind. The minute it moves out of the mind and becomes deed is when it becomes anything from racist to outright criminal.
And if it’s so easy for people to become xenophobic in this country it stands to reason that it’s equally easy for this situation to become racist, violent and criminal.
So what's the solution?
Frankly, I don't believe the solution lies in the government telling us to be nice to our foreign neighbours. Because it’s damn hard to be nice to anyone when you are starving and homeless.
I don't think the solution lies in the government just putting this all down to criminal elements and getting the police to kick arse.
I reckon that we have to look at what is causing the problem in the first place.
And while I certainly applaud the government for wanting to help our neighbours in their need and not turn starving refugees away, it’s actually very difficult to be charitable to foreigners at the expense of not being charitable to your own people.
We are told that most of these "foreigners" are Zimbabweans.
That being the case, I think the situation would be enormously relieved if, for starters, our government stopped treating Robert Mugabe as some sort of god and told him to get off his high horse and to sort himself and his country out so that Zimbabwe could start creating job opportunities for their own people.
I find it quite bizarre that South Africa is facing all sorts of problems as a result of xenophobia which in turn is caused by millions of Zimbabweans being forced to try and find work here, while Lord Bob doesn't appear to be in the least bit concerned about helping us.
It’s a bit like putting your life on the line rescuing your neighbour's wife and children from their burning house while he sits on your patio having a whisky and soda and complaining about how badly the world is treating him.
I know that there are many other aspects of this problem. Like topical South African entitlement. Where some greedy township shop owners believe that they have a right to a monopoly and being able to charge high prices. And that any Somali who starts up in competition and undercuts them should be kicked out or killed.
There are all sorts of complex aspects to the problem we so loosely call xenophobia.
But, I am convinced that a major cause is quite simply that there are too many people in South Africa chasing too few houses and too few jobs.
I am fully supportive of the South African government’s desire to help our neighbours. But I reckon that our neighbours’ governments should put a bit of effort into helping as well.
Once again, our government is in denial with regard to this whole problem of xenophobia.
And as usual, they will wake up far too late after heaven knows how many people have died.
Our government needs to realise that for poor South Africans who are battling to find jobs and housing, all those foreigners don't look like brothers and sisters, but more like an invading army.
The government needs to start looking at what is causing this flood of illegal immigrants and do something about it - even if it means upsetting big brother Bob.
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