The #AmINext protests of the past two weeks were a game-changer for South Africa, writes Adriaan Basson.
Scattered clouds. Mild.
Police patrol Johannesburg after violence. (Felix Dlangamandla, file)
Multimedia · User Galleries · News in Pictures
Send us your pictures · Send us your stories
The current tensions surrounding xenophobia in South Africa brings to mind Mahmood Mamdani's book titled When Victims Become Killers, writes Ralph Mathekga.
The book focuses on how the idea of nativism was conveniently used to inspire the genocide that took place in Rwanda when the Tutsis and the Hutus turned against each other.
I have read the book a few times, and each and every time I read it, it brings forth how easy a population that sees itself as a victim turns against its own and victimises them. When one looks at the current challenges in South Africa, we have to confront the reality that as a nation, we may be closer to genocide than we are willing to admit.
READ | A crime that cost more than 50 million people their lives
The sad part of the Rwandan genocide experience is that people who used to peacefully exist alongside each other began to embrace their differences, told in the language of who the rightful native and settler native are.
Culture and practices were then highlighted as features that distinguish each other, and such differences were then highlighted as a source of a conflicting value system that could not be resolved.
Source of conflict
Of course, when nations or groups begin to appeal to nationhood as a source of difference, someone's sense of being will then be castigated as a source of conflict in society.
The solution that is often suggested involves the removal or elimination of an alien nation. The source of conflict in this situation is always a struggle for resources; economic resources.
However, the conflict express itself as a selector of who has a right to exist and earn and living, and who has no such rights. Eventually, those who feel victimised by an unjust system which has condemned them to economic desperation, tend to victimise others as perpetrators of the system.
READ | Melanie Verwoerd: We are losing our soul
Whether we call it xenophobia or criminality, the truth is that the sentiments that drive such reactions by those who feel they are the natives of the land, are the same sentiments that drove the genocide in Rwanda; the genocide in Bosnia, and in other countries.
The underlying feature of this horrid social phenomenon is always the same: Victims become killers. Mamdani's book is a warning about how others are firstly defined as culprits of the moral decay, and they are subsequently made into deserving victims.
Even worse is that the state and its institutions in such circumstances often play a distance role whilst the broader population carries out systematic removal of the identified culprits. As Mamdani said, in the case of Rwanda, he faced the reality of a criminal population hiding behind economic frustration.
In this short piece, South Africans need to avoid becoming a criminal population. History will judge us badly for having made victims out of equally desperate people who made it to our shores.
READ | SA is a dysfunctional, broken and collapsing society
This is not about the state, it's rather about the population ensuring that it does not become a criminal population. We are becoming a criminal population and once we are done victimising others, we will go ahead and find new victims amongst ourselves.
The sentiments that drive xenophobia never stop unless deliberate efforts are made to change the views of the nation. New victims will be searched. The question is, once this phase is completed, who is next in line to take responsibility for social ills in the country?
- Ralph Mathekga is a political analyst and the author of When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa's Turn.
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
What makes a great Formula 1 driver? Is it their natural 'raw talent'?
According to an international fashion authority.
How does mom's anxiety affect baby?
Audi’s crossover and SUV offering has received a notable consolidation.
Here's how you can slash that price in half.
Highclere Castle is now open to the public.
Here's what to watch in local cinemas.
A quick dinner when you simply can't bother making pasta from scratch.
Cape Town CBDElite SourcingR15 000.00 Per Month Per Month
Cape TownTumaini ConsultingR600 000.00 - R700 000.00 Per Year
ClaremontVelocity Trade Financial Services (PTY) Ltd
Apartments / Flats
R 1 550 000
R 3 750 000
R 3 395 000
We subscribe to the Press Code.
You choose what you want
News24 on Android
Get the latest from News24 on your Android device.
Terms and Conditions
24.com Terms and Conditions - Updated April 2012
Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.
This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.