Friends & Friction: Gag King Goodwill Zwelithini

2015-04-28 10:00

The African refugee crisis, and its xenophobic consequences at home and abroad, will not be solved until Africans look in the mirror, and accept that we are the architects of our own misery.

We allow whey to rise to the top and then we throw away the cream. Our leaders are generally third-rate contenders who sell their souls for less than the commodities this continent peddles on the markets.

Last year alone, more than 200?000 African migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea while trying to find a better life in Europe. Thousands have been killed in capsized boats, while others suffocated in ship and truck containers.

Millions of our neighbours are coming to South Africa because it promises freedom and a better life. Many have been killed and eaten by wild animals in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which straddles the borders of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa.

It is time to admit that the Motherland is falling apart.

The situation is so bad in some countries that people are risking life and limb – every day – just to earn a living.

Last week in Libya, the Islamic State massacred nearly 30 Christian Ethiopians. You can only imagine how bad things must be in Ethiopia for these people to leave their own country to find a job in a country at war.

It’s time for the African Union (AU) to urgently discuss the African refugee crisis, the causes of which should be dealt with head-on.

Firstly, the AU must be intolerant of unelected leaders just as it has isolated military regimes. This bold move has reduced the number of coups on the continent and the concomitant brutality.

Secondly, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights must play a bigger role in African affairs because the International Criminal Court has lost all credibility. It is now seen as a kangaroo court whose aim is to please non-signatories like the US.

Thirdly, monarchs, and traditional and other unelected leaders, must not be allowed to make political statements, because they have no accountability. King Goodwill Zwelithini’s statement about foreigners – which sparked the violence – has created bad will for South Africa.

He could be the first South African leader to be charged by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in the same way that Uhuru Kenyatta was charged for the Kenyan violence. This could create further bad will for this fledgling nation.

Fourthly, the AU should vociferously promote trade among African countries. As our economies grow, there will be fewer conflicts. The US and Canada have an undefended border because both countries are prosperous. The same will happen in Africa.

Fifthly, the AU should actively work towards easing the movement of people. The xenophobic violence we are experiencing should not be allowed to push the continent into massive cocooning. Continents do go through this from time to time. For instance, Europe endured two world wars, but came out much stronger.

So we should use this experience to build bridges and foster relationships among our different countries. The way South African officials treat other Africans at border gates must be condemned and quickly changed.

Lastly, Africans must understand that Africans cannot be foreigners in Africa – only neighbours. Zimbabweans are not amakwerekwere in South Africa, but omakhelwane (neighbours). The same is true for Mozambicans, Batswana and people from all other African countries.

The African tradition is vocal on how to treat neighbours and visitors. That is what the new leaders of this continent should promote if we are to provide a better life for all.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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