It's Not Xenophobia, It's Plain Crime

2015-04-15 06:12

What I’ve learnt about so called xenophobic attacks is no matter who commits them, we as black South Africans often end up carrying the cross collectively. We are collectively accused of being ungrateful and are sorely reminded of the local comrades who were well accommodated in other nations during exile.

At the end of the day I think what we call Xenophobic Violence is basic crime. It’s an act of violence under unjust reasons. We have police stations, courts, and rights groups to address whatever we feel is an unlawful act or situation in our communities. Resorting to violence when not under direct threat could be seen as a punishable crime by the law.

What the sudden spike of xenophobic violence in what is supposed to be an exemplary South African city only highlights is the sluggishness and inefficiency of our justice system. It further illustrates a disturbing inability by our state to deal effectively with unrests and lawlessness.

There has been a growing trend in violent mob activity during what are supposed to be demonstrations and lawful marches. What is perhaps worrying is these violent surges are apparently enacted by law abiding residents. But how can protesting residents destroy their own facilities so to prove a point to uncooperative officials?

I have witnessed on many occasions when people are supposed to be demonstrating against corrupt leaders but then end up destroying and burning their own facilities through violence. The concept of burning your current fields because the state won’t allocate you more land is one I will never fully grasp.

The Xenophobic violence, as we have witnessed through the vigorous media machinery, often sparks when a foreign national allegedly kills a local person, either for stealing or for attempting to rob their shop.

A simple solution in this instance is not to instantaneously form a martial-law mob and plunder the shop at hand. Neither is it to proceed to unleash a ‘shut down and loot’ spree on all the foreign owned shops in the area.

A simple solution would not be to take the law into our own hands, but to proceed to open a criminal charge against the alleged offender with the police. We cannot accuse other people of crime only to commit crime ourselves by stealing from the very man we accuse of wronging one of ours.

People can’t just wield tactless anger about without regard to the law in this so called Democracy of ours. The fact that this latest splurge of xenophobic attacks happened in the home province of the South African state president is completely self-defeating to put it plainly.

Human Rights groups have thrown part of the blame for these unfortunate assaults at the recent utterances of Zulu Monarch King Goodwill Zwelithini. Although King Zwelithini never actually said people should attack foreign shop owners and then loot their goods, it is argued that his words might have fuelled the unrests.

But regardless of the King’s speech, the country has been in a simmering atmosphere of Xenophobic violence lately, particularly targeting shops owned by Somali’s, Ethiopians, and Pakistani’s, which are often located in black townships and areas.

Personally I didn’t even know what Xenophobia meant, but it was only a word I saw quite often in abstract NGO adverts in the papers. Thabo Mbeki, the self-proclaimed African, as usual would often drop cautioning hints on the subject, which only his intelligent few could crack to no effect.

The 2008 Xenophobic attacks took place during the troubled presidency of Mbeki. Newspapers like The Star similarly carried inflaming headlines as this unprecedented uprising took root in the small township of Alexandra, outside of Johannesburg.

As the foreign owned convenience stores had not yet spread in black townships during the 2008 xenophobic violence, the targets then were basically all foreign nationals of African descent. This prompted black scholars to attribute the violence to ‘Afro-Phobia’ and a lack of African Patriotism.

Some of the tried and tested excuses for these inhumane acts are that the foreigners take jobs, they cause crime or are here illegally. Even if that were the case, there surely must exist humane alternatives to employ in dealing with such concerns, as opposed to taking the law into our own hands.

Some people in Thabo Mbeki’s cabinet even went as far as pinning the sporadic 2008 outbreaks on the notorious Third Force of the pre- democracy cataclysm. But this to me was simply a matter of several criminal kingpins instigating and stirring up rowdy crowds to senseless violence.

How can we feel safe as a society when our police and security institutions fail to contain and deal with an insurgence which ends up claiming scores and scores of lives unnecessarily? This only further incenses the opinions and assertions of those who feel the ANC has its hands full in government.

A majority of South Africans who would never take part in such barbaric activity and who strongly condemn such cannot repeatedly take the blame for the crimes of these few specific outlaws. For foreign media and our so called African siblings to thoughtlessly lay collective blame is equally repulsive.

But as far as those responsible are concerned, let’s stop sugar coating their acts with cuddly United Nations terms like Xenophobia. A crime is a crime, whether it is committed by a local or a foreigner, and all adults are presumably well familiar with South African law. ©

(Check Out My Blog on Twitter: @JustSmartRage)

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