Xenophobia – Calling A Spade by Any Other Name

We are celebrating Africa Day on May 25.

Historically this day marks the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and commemorates African unity.

In South Africa we have paved the way to Africa Day with the death of at least five people during xenophobic attacks which flared up in KwaZulu-Natal last week. It has now spread to Gauteng with news of attacks in Johannesburg.

Yes, xenophobic attacks.

It is truly a sad day when we forget the atrocities committed towards our African brothers and sisters during the 2008 xenophobic attacks by allowing our government to go to great lengths to call a spade by any other name than a spade.

A recent opinion piece by Rebecca Davis on the Daily Maverick website, Xenophobic violence: Government walks the walk, but will it talk the talk? offers a telling timeline of just how much government doesn’t want to call a spade a spade.

Yet the animosity towards our African compatriots have not ceased to stew since the 2008 attacks and violence continued to flare up in several parts of South Africa.

It highlights the fact that government has done very little to address the issue. Perhaps it can be attributed to the fact that these attacks have been written off as mere criminal opportunism by more than one prominent government official.

If we consider our failed efforts to curb crime, it makes sense that government would plead the fifth rather than call the monster by its real name.

On Facebook a user called it an “academic contest” as everyone tries to weigh in on what is happening in KZN… xenophobia, afrophobia, criminal, political…

While all this is going on people continue to die violently. Communities continue to burn. Families continue to be displaced.

As I write this I am currently on a visit to Australia where the current situation in South Africa is a hot topic.

Our continent is looking towards us, not as a source of inspiration, but as an embarrassment in efforts to achieving African unity and prosperity.

I would like to see our government showing its strength by not just condemning these attacks, but intervening decisively towards trampling this fear and anger towards our African brothers and sisters. We need leadership and we need it now.

I would like to see all South Africans pull together (and we have shown on many occasions that we can) and find non-violent ways to address these festering wounds left over by colonialism and apartheid, and find a way to heal our nation.

South Africa is not the only African nation with problems, we have a lot of challenges in common and we need to tackle them together. We were recently reminded that the threat of terrorism is fast spreading on our continent and leaving a bloody trail in its wake. Can we afford to pretend that this threat is just a threat on some African nations? No we cannot.

As we are about to celebrate 21 years of democracy, these incidents are a sad indictment of what so many fought and lost their lives for.

My hope is that we will renew the bonds of Africa Day and find our collective identity as a continent ripe with possibilities and committed to the spirit of Ubuntu.

Divided we are weak, united we are strong. #NoToXenophobia