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Alexandra - a slow-burning fuse set to explode

By unknown | May 15, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Haunting images of the bloodied face of a very frightened woman in Alexandra this week keep playing themselves over and over in my mind.

Haunting images of the bloodied face of a very frightened woman in Alexandra this week keep playing themselves over and over in my mind.

If that was indeed the portrait of xenophobia, then, like a two-headed monster that feeds on itself, South Africa is headed for a catastrophic embarrassment on the world stage.

Xenophobia is the hatred or fear of foreigners or their politics or culture.

This hatred or fear boiled over so violently that two people were killed and about 60 maimed in just one night of mayhem in Alexandra.

Not so long ago, it happened in Atteridgeville, where two Zimbabwean nationals were burnt to death inside a shack. The madness also gripped Port Elizabeth.

Institute for Security Studies senior analyst Prince Mashele rightly says South African community leaders are losing control of communities and that a social movement is needed in South Africa to educate people that xenophobic incidents and attacks are unacceptable.

This is a noble, sober call. But where are the leaders as headlines scream "War in Alex" and "Night of Terror..."

Earlier, in March, Parliament could only "condemn" attacks on foreigners.

Many of the communities still blame foreigners for worsening social problems such as rising crime, unemployment, or even the spread of diseases.

In the aftermath of the attacks in Atteridgeville in March, Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told residents: "I don't care if people have lost their girlfriends, jobs or businesses to foreigners...

"We are not going to create refugee camps because a few people hate them. South Africa is hailed by the international community because we integrate with immigrants."

That is fine. A good, bold statement for the political gallery.

The question is: what are the government and Mapisa-Nqakula doing to monitor this "integration"? Do they ever heed analysts such as Mashele?

Says Mashele: "Unemployment is a national challenge. Leaders need to provide clarity on the socio-economic situation faced by the country.

"The issue of unemployment is a national challenge - not created by foreigners - and it has to be addressed by the national leadership in partnership with the private sector." He says we need to see a deployment of national leaders to the troubled areas.

"They must go to the ground to address and educate people and not only speak on television.

"What we are seeing is an outcome of the frustration of people who are looking for jobs and they believe that they are not getting jobs because jobs are taken by foreigners.

"If this issue is not addressed quickly, we could run into a kind of hooligan revolution..."

Now, I couldn't have said it better.

I bet you, here is an early warning sign that will go unheeded yet again by the slumbering leadership.

Yet another slow-burning fuse is set to explode with shattering consequences as they fiddle-faddle in the corridors of power.


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