Exorcise the xenophobia demon

Xenophobia. My country is bleeding, and Africans are dying. This is no time for small, piffling talk.

Xenophobia. My country is bleeding, and Africans are dying. This is no time for small, piffling talk.

So this week I defer to the Reverend Mlungisi Ntsele of the Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Tladi, Soweto:

I write as one who appeals to the African sages to prevail in the public arena with their wisdom in an urgent endeavour to exorcise the xenophobia demon that has brought untold shame on South Africa.

Heinous attacks on Africans by Africans can't be allowed to continue unchallenged without the risk of our philosophy of ubuntu being seriously compromised.

I want to quote a Sesotho adage: bana ba motho ba kgaolelana tlhogo yatsie - siblings share the head of a locust/grasshopper.

This suggests that in spite of meagre resources, kith and kin must share.

Words such as foreigners, aliens, makwere- kwere or magrigamba instil in Africans of South African origin the notion that Africans from other parts of Africa are not our brothers and sisters, which is a big lie.

Why should Africans be our worst enemies?

We Africans know that if there is turmoil or misunderstanding in one's home, it is common practice that the one who feels afflicted or aggrieved will seek refuge with aunts and uncles.

Once the misunderstanding isresolved, the one who sought refuge returns home.

Africans from other parts of the continent come here to seek relief from adverse conditions. They do not come with the intention of abandoning their native roots.

Once the conditions that caused their displacement improve, they will want to return home.

If one has sought refuge with relatives, one is accorded all the conveniences of the homestead.

This reminds me of another Sesotho saying: molomo o jang o roga o sa jeng - the mouth that chews swears at the one that does not.

When our forebears coined these sayings they knew there would be times when there would not be enough for everyone, but such circumstances does not preclude sharing, even with total strangers.

Hence the isiZulu saying: isisu somhambi asingakanani singange nso yenyoni - the pilgrim/visitor's stomach is the size of a bird's kidney. Providing for a visitor/stranger will not finishyour food.

I have deliberately avoided reminding South Africans that our brothers and sisters in Africa supported our struggle against apartheid. Some still bear scars of the regime's brutal aggression when in pursuit of liberation movement cadres.

I remind the perpetrators that South Africa's economy prospered through the toil and sweat of Mozambicans, Zimbabweans, Malawians, Tanzanians, Zambians, Batswana and Basottho - to mention but a few.

They toiled in South Africa's gold and coal mines for a pittance. We can't allow them to be brutalised and dehumanised without risking our own humanity - umuntu ngumungu ngabantu.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: "None is free until all are free." Amen Ntante Moruti.