Xenophobia: South Africans are full of anger and bad leaders are taking advantage of this

2015-05-05 11:39

(Elizabeth Sejake/City Press)

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President Jacob Zuma’s Freedom Day statement that South Africans are full of anger and need to be cured should be taken seriously.

The main questions are: what happens when someone is boiling with anger, and who suffers and becomes the victim of this anger?

The answers are that those who are weak and vulnerable become the victims, and when people are angry they can be a very effective tool in the hands of those who might utilise their anger.

Anyone who can help them to release or unleash their anger becomes their leader, irrespective of his intention.

This must be a lesson to all those irresponsible leaders who, when pursuing their political and tribal agenda, must avoid making utterances that can be utilised wrongly by the proponents of crime, tribalism, xenophobia and all other forms of discrimination.

Zuma’s points on anger quickly reminded me of what happened during the talks that preceded the 1994 democratic elections – when King Goodwill Zwelithini led his people to demand the independence of KwaZulu-Natal, and how he was even prepared to unilaterally declare the province a kingdom.

I can also recall what happened before the ANC’s Polokwane conference – when angry ANC members were mobilised under the Zulu nationalism agenda through T-shirts and slogans.

There are fundamental questions that we have to ask ourselves when we with the crisis we are currently facing. Are we xenophobic? Are we Afrophobic? Or, we are something else. It is not easy to get a word that will fit “khaxa” but we must ask what would happen in the absence of these African-born “foreign nationals”.

From my personal experience and understanding as a Zulu who originates from KwaZulu-Natal, I can tell you that this war and hatred in KwaZulu-Natal was also directed at South Africans who were born in other provinces – there is a history of them being called “izilwanyana” and “izizwana”. All the accusations levelled against “foreign nationals” were levelled against these South Africans, depending on which province they came from.

I can recall what happened in the mines when parts of the province were still under the KwaZulu-Natal government. Many people who didn’t speak isiZulu were harassed, brutally murdered and called criminals who were stealing jobs from Zulus because they were associated with the Xhosas – “the ANC’.

It is true that these “xenophobic attacks” are also happening in Gauteng. In Gauteng, people from different ethnic groups lived in peace and tolerated one another except in the migrant labour hostels and in townships around hostels where non-isiZulu speakers were killed by hostel dwellers, especially during the political violence of the 1990s.

This helps us to put things in perspective about the source and the character of the xenophobic attacks happening mainly in these two provinces.

Maybe the truth is that our brothers and sisters born in Africa outside of South Africa happened to be here at the wrong time, when South Africans are filled with tribal hostility and also consumed by deep-rooted anger created by apartheid’s divide-and-rule tactics and Bantustan politics.

Now the victims of the apartheid-created hostility and anger are ganging up against their own fellow Africans and misdirecting this hostility and anger to them because they are more vulnerable than them.

As South Africans, we must urgently address these things – which must be part of our national agenda. Why do we still have a province called KwaZulu-Natal and have a king who is treated and behaves as though he is the king of the whole country? This is an insult to the many traditional leaders who took part in our liberation struggles while others were stooges of the apartheid regime.

We may we have accommodated many races from different parts of the world – outside Africa – mostly who came to Africa as colonisers, but we now find it difficult to accommodate just one race in our Africa – the black African race.

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