Perception versus reality

2017-04-12 06:02

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ONE of the well-known and widely practised tasks of social scientists is the art of taxonomy. Many would know this as a process of categorisation. If a social scientist takes curiosity on a particular phenomenon that needs to be dissected, the results must either be a categorisation and/or a definition. This article is no exception to the above rule, as it will endeavour to make sense of what we have collectively coined xenophobic-Afro-phobic attacks.

At this stage I should like to introduce you to a set of perspectives by which one could make sense of the recent spate of attacks on our African brothers and sisters. These attacks are a direct consequence of perception versus reality. By reality I am referring to issues such as, but not limited to, the high unemployment rate, corruption, nepotism, diseases, crime and illiteracy in this country, all of which precipitate only one inevitability, survival of the fittest.
Now this is where it gets interesting. South Africa is not doing very well in terms of supporting its own citizenry yet has very relaxed immigration laws. How is this different from asking your cousin’s children to visit your house over school holidays and not buy them groceries? Conflict will ensue. The foregoing scenario exemplifies and mirrors the current reality we are faced with in South Africa.

In such instances, as detailed above, perceptions feature prominently and manifest in a form of scapegoats. Now that locals feel suffocated, victimised, oppressed and alienated by their own system they would stop at nothing to justify their dissatisfactions with the system. They would seek soft targets, ones that are already vulnerable.
Remember that most foreign nationals come here seeking refuge, running away from their countries devastated by famine, protracted wars, political turmoil, etc.

Our foreign brothers and sisters become victims as locals project onto them all that which frustrates them about the system that governs them. Locals seek justifications, for example, about why they are unemployed. Why there is so much crime, and so on, and in fact find solace in placing all the blame on foreign nationals.

Put differently, locals would rather sit at home complain year in year out about crime, unemployment, drug abuse and foreign nationals as being a scapegoat.

The fact is that even our own street vendors throughout the country fight over the busiest spots in central business districts and townships. Therefore, nationality is no basis on which to ground the attacks. We must denounce all forms of narrative purporting on the contrary to the former assertion. These have been fed to us by mostly European media wittingly continuing the divide and rule strategy, which had been their only tool for success in these past 400 years.

Let us not forget how angered a nation we are, we are an angry nation, us Africans. Let us also not forget how we have been victims of deceit and manipulation, not only by the colonial masters but also by blacks who no longer regard themselves as blacks, but white.

Let us also not forget that these injustices and atrocities were perpetrated against the natives unprovoked. We ought to be using our shared historical past as a unifying factor and unite against all that which seeks to reverse the gains we have made as Africans. We are all oppressed by the same system, oppressed to varying degrees calculatedly, so we remain divided.

Zopho Makhoba - author, research consultant, advisor, social commentator at Makhoba Consultants Group (Pty) Ltd.

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