Xenophobia - South Africa has come a long way

2015-04-15 20:54

We all have morning routines and part of mine is checking the news wires and Twitter to see what the world got up to while I was sleeping. This morning, trending on Twitter is #South Africans. I went to check out the tweets and I was soon horrified by the graphic images of mutilated people that we are being associated with. What happened to the kind, tolerant accepting South Africans that I fell in love with in 1994? What happened to those South Africans that the world fell in love with?

My, we have come a long way. From being the darlings and the miracle nation of the world, we have foreign African countries putting repatriation plans together because no matter how bad the reality and hardships in those countries, it couldn't be worse than what South African's are doing to people as they sojourn here.

History is always interesting especially when one looks at the impact leadership has on a nation. In the 1930's as Europe was recovering from “The war to end all wars”, Germany was going through severe economic consequences brought about by the punitive terms of the Treaty of Versailles. As a general rule, during times of economic hardship, populations lean towards more radical political parties. The most radical German party at the time were the National Socialists and they became the government. While their leader was able to give the people hope by naming a scapegoat for German society to blame for their woes., he also united the German nation. The leaders name was Adolf Hitler and the fact he united Germans by nurturing hatred, fear, resentment and racism in their hearts remains the record of world History.

Move forward approximately sixty years to the tip of Africa. A nation on the brink of civil war. The status quo can no longer be tolerated by either the suppressed majority or the ruling minority. The minority hold a referendum and the outcome is that power and citizenship will be offered to all South Africans. Here too rose a leader, he gave his people hope and united them but nurtured compassion, tolerance and kindness in each person's heart. He showed us who we could be. And he reminded us who we really are. His name was Nelson Mandela and the way he led us to peace, also remains a record of World History.

South Africa. In a few weeks time we will be celebrating Freedom Day. A day when we remember how we earned our hard earned freedom. It is observed by people who recognise the good that Mandela led us all to do.  It's observed with ceremonies, concerts, braais. Tomorrow is a day observed throughout the world called Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day. It's observed by people who recognise the evil that Hitler perpetrated. It's observed by a one minute silence at 9am, hearing the survivor testimonies and learning about the people who saved the lives of victims of the Holocaust. The people who acted against society and saved lives when society was committing horrors that remain beyond comprehension. We also say never forget. We are not a hate filled, jealous and cruel nation. We could be the people to do the right thing – even if it means swimming upstream, going against the grain.

Hitler used used hatred and racial prejudice to drive Nazi atrocities and the Holocaust. That was his premeditated strategy. Mandela did the same but he used the kindness, empathy and compassion in the hearts of South African's to bring about the miraculous revolution we saw in 1994.  That was his premeditated strategy and a mark of his greatness. And it could be ours.

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