A refugee policy could have prevented this mayhem

We are the scatterlings of Africa

We are the scatterlings of Africa

Both you and I

We are on the road to Phelamanga

Beneath a copper sky

And we are scatterlings of Africa

... who made us, here and why?


These lyrics are from Johnny Clegg's album Scatterlings of Africa.

Africans, what Africans? I ask without any inference to Clegg's song.

In 1994 we celebrated freedom and the world rejoiced with us. We laughed heartily, beating our breasts in glee.

"Free at last", we chanted, as Martin Luther King Jnr had extolled.

But can we say that today, that we are free?

I ask this as Africans kill and maim Africans in the name of xenophobia.

I see a nation of cowards hiding behind the petticoat of a government bereft of a backbone. It is rudderless and lacking in leadership.

If this means I am angry let it be, because I am outraged.

In my last column I described xenophobia as the hatred or fear of foreigners or their politics or culture.

Robert Sobukwe and Kwame Nkrumah, the founding fathers of Africanism, struck it right on the head when they said that this continent belonged to all who were loyal to Africa. This unfortunately has not filtered down to the ground.

My colleague, Sibongile Mashaba, told me of a disturbing incident that tugged at my heartstrings.

She went to the Zamimpilo informal settlement in Riverlea, Johannesburg, in the midst of the ongoing attacks.

What Sibongile told me will make any right-thinking person cry.

She said: "I was touched when a three-year-old Zimbabwean girl asked her mother, 'Mama, where are we going to sleep tonight? When are they going to bring back your things? Are we going to sleep at MaKhumalo's house?'"

Oh, for the innocence of a child.

Little Lungile Ndlovu and her mother were made homeless by hooligans who had not only driven them out of their home, but also looted their spaza shop, robbing them of their livelihood.

And our paralysed government says there is no crisis.

I have to repeat that every sane country in the world has a policy on refugees. Only South Africa refuses to accept that the millions of refugees - about four million from Zimbabwe alone - are either fleeing economic hardships or war. As such, we should have refugee centres to regulate the influx of fellow Africans in distress.

Our borders are wide open with people coming in at any time.

I am not advocating that Africans escaping from war-ravaged countries be sent packing back home.

But there should be control and politicians must stop burying their heads in the sand and say there is no problem.

There is a monumental problem when African people attack their own.

"Mama, where are we going to sleep tonight?"

We do not want to hear such words from our children.

Do we?