The ugly side of who we are

2008-05-26 00:00

You must be from South Africa. You must be from the land of my birth. Where else would you be from, if in the moment of inexplicable superiority, foreign to what you constantly purport to be your culture — an imaginary culture of ubuntu — you kill, burn alive and rape those who are weaker and less privileged than you are.

You must be from among my people, where else would you be from, with such astonishing amnesia and such self-destructive myopia. Were you not the one who not so long ago was clothed and kept warm by the mountains of Morogoro and cushioned from thirst by the rivers of Lusaka? You, the South African freedom fighter who was refreshed by the water vapour of the mighty Victoria Falls, in the amazing splendour of the once splendid Zimbabwe.

Were you not the one who, in the recent past, basked in the generosity and innate hospitality of the peoples of the continent of Africa? The freedom fighters of Mozambique — who gave you hope that aluta continua. The boys and girls of Zambia whose land was ruined by the soldiers of apartheid South Africa, because of your presence in the land of their fathers. Do you remember? You were in Lusaka and Lusaka was burnt to ashes. They sacrificed their livelihood while sharing and identifying with your aspiration for a liberated South Africa.

Your amnesia is amazing. Your myopia is frightening. Have you forgotten the MPLA of Angola and Frelimo of Mozambique? How soon you forget, my fighter brother. What happened to the lessons of Agostino Neto, Eduardo Mondlane, Frantz Fanon, Anton Lembede and Chek Antia Diop?

cannot for the life of me decipher this ubuntu you always rave about. Maybe it (ubuntu) was once there; maybe it is not there anymore. Sadly, it is not there anymore. You must be from my country if your own countrymen and women feel unsafe in their own homes and feel vulnerable in their own cars.

The story of baby Tsepang is a sad reminder of your repulsive side, my fighter brother, the abrupt end of Lucky Dube’s life, a terrible indictment of your once noble tradition. Ubuntu? What ubuntu, if Alexandra, Tembisa, Ramaphosa Settlement and God knows what next, are the sad reality of our unfortunate social fabric?

I write as I have, ask as I have and reason as I do because of the disconcerting incidents of xenophobia in South Africa — the unfortunate display of self-loathing among my own people. I write as I do and generalise as I have to provoke all of us to a new frame of mind, a new culture of thinking.

Much as it is encouraging that most South Africans have condemned these acts of violence, the few who do engage in these acts come from families and communities, and that, unfortunately, makes all of us culprits in these depressing inhumane acts.

If we go to other parts of the continent and say we are South Africans, they will see all of us as culprits and in the process we may even lose our lives.

While Polokwane should have served as a lesson to our leadership not to stand on a pedestal to dismiss and condemn without trying to listen and understand people’s concerns, no concern, no matter how justified it is, warrants such gruesome acts of brutality.

Even though the issue of competition over scarce resources and perceived slow pace of service delivery in some quarters cannot be completely ruled out in these unfortunate acts, we need to stand together as responsible citizens and give these selfish actions the condemnation due to them. If this is not done urgently, this “revolution” will begin to go after its own, as we have seen Xsongas and Vendas being victimised for being too dark in the land of their birth.

• Inspired by Professor Pitika Ntuli.

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