Thu Oct 27 14:50:00 SAST 2016

We've been stripped naked and the world is watching

By unknown | Jun 12, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Alas! It seems the angst of the past few weeks is waning but not before revealing who we really are - or are not.

Alas! It seems the angst of the past few weeks is waning but not before revealing who we really are - or are not.

Our souls have been rocked to the core since that day when the festering sore burst in Alexandra.

Our lives were turned upside-down. I mean, for us as Africans - perpetrators, victims, vocal and silent witnesses. We have all been stripped naked and the world is watching.

First there was the explosion, then the almost paralytic disbelief and then action.

But it's that action that bothers me because it was haphazardly coordinated - from relocating the displaced to shelters that in themselves became the bane of discontent.

We have seen residents in affluent areas smarting over the mushrooming of tent villages on their doorsteps.

Rows of white tents stood face-to-face with the mansions of Corlett Gardens and Gillview, as if menacingly, as residents waved their arms in exasperation.

Oh, no, not in my backyard, they seemed to say.

Oh, no, these people don't want us here, the others seemed to say.

This is what brings me to my contention that our souls have been bared, our consciences need salving as we question our motives: should we love our neighbours or, rather, did we ever?

Naturally the government, UNCHR, independent organisations, churches and individuals were galvanised into action.

The displaced people were provided with food and other basic but dire necessities, including medical care on site.

However, amid all this, it was disheartening to hear comments such as that of David Shabani from war-torn Burundi.

"Since I was born I have never had to queue for food, having to fight for two slices of bread," he said.

People at the shelter are provided with food, including bread, soup, rice, meat and fruit.

These may not have been ideal for some of the victims such as Shabani who had established themselves and lived comfortably in their former communities.

Shabani has made his intentions clear. Unlike many other victims of xenophobic violence who chose to return to their countries, he said he was staying put.

"If they still do not want me I will kill my children and myself ," he said.

Quite a blood-curdling statement, that was.

But it is the reaction - or attitude - to the emergency aid by some of the victims that is worrisome.

To millions of homeless South Africans a fare of two nourishing slices of bread and an orange is like a mirage, a luxury attainable only by a few.

Analysts attributed the explosion in Alexandra and other areas to poverty and competition for scarce resources rather than plain xenophobia.

It would be a sad day if those who have been sheltered and fed begin to scoff at the aid that eludes so many.

I have a suggestion that might help to mend our souls.

While it has been said that our communities should be educated to accept foreign nationals, the same should be extended to those we host and shelter.

Their situation is painful and might be uncomfortable - but shelter and food they have.


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