end the destruction

Lybon Mabasa

Lybon Mabasa

The wanton destruction of property belonging to foreigners, the murder and rape of women have exposed the fragility of our democracy and questioned the values that underpin our society.

Our country and its citizens waged a credible and legitimate struggle. One would have thought that the ruthlessness and cruelty meted out to black people by apartheid would have left such an indelible mark in black peoples' minds that they would guard against any behaviour that reflects or mimics the same hatred that system had for black people.

We were expected to be our "brothers' keepers". However, it is so obvious that we remain a wounded people who have imbibed the poison of our former oppressors and behave just like them, or worse at times.

Xenophobia is not just an African phenomenon but a world phenomenon. We see its ugly head in the US where "undocumented aliens" are ill-treated. It is even a major debate in the coming elections.

Americans' hatred of foreigners is much the same as that of South Africans, save to say, their criminal behaviour is not as overt as it has been here. They tend to be sophisticated and subtly cruel.

There they are accused, among other things, of criminality, of stealing jobs by accepting less than what Americans are paid. All these things sound familiar except that the policies of the US are responsible for the economic state of affairs in those countries the people are running from.

All over the world people are being forced to flee or leave their countries in search of better lives and opportunities. This is global migration.

The reason for its occurrence may be varied but largely relate to poverty, scant resources, ethnicity/tribalism, religion and the many wars that are a cover for the looting of resources throughout the world, particularly in Africa.

Many Africans find themselves in foreign countries because of wars raging in their countries or because of the implosion of their economies. In Africa, the hardest hit are women with children on their backs.

This phenomenon recently showed its ugly head in France when African immigrants were attacked, their homes and businesses burnt down.

The recent xenophobic violence has truly exposed the soft belly of our 14-year old democracy. It is true that 1994 was supposed to be a turning point, a positive turn for the majority of our people but that did not happen.

It did not happen, just as the Black Consciousness Movement had warned and predicted in 1994. We warned then that the franchise alone was not going to guarantee freedom for our people.

Since 1994, instead of the expected transformation that should have included the overwhelming majority, a system of economic exclusion for the overwhelming majority has occurred, forcing them to be engaged in a deathly struggle for a few jobs and very limited resources, while a minority black oligarchy, mainly ruling party politicians and those connected to them, have joined their white counterparts in looting the wealth of the country. What this means is that people have realised that they cannot eat votes, live in votes or even wear votes.

What we see and call xenophobia, is nothing else but political anger which is finding a wrong venting point. In this country of great wealth, the new phenomenon of private banking is flourishing because the black elite and politicians in the main are focusing on wealth accumulation while the overwhelming majority are catching hell.

This country has produced black dollars billionaires while poverty reigns supreme, almost 40 percent of able bodied citizens are unemployed, more than 45 million people including foreigners are cramped in less than nine percent of the land as more than 80 percent of the land remains in the hands of 62000 white families, interests and institutions.

The government's housing programme remains chaotic with people who registered for houses in 1996 still remaining on waiting lists while some government officials continue to extract and take bribes for houses.

All these are like throwing a bone in the mist of hungry hounds. It needs a political solution that will respond positively to the needs and aspirations of the people. The police and the army cannot arrest the whole nation, if they could, apartheid would still be with us.

The country has to return to the core value of Black Consciousness. President Thabo Mbeki was right in making that call in Cape Town last year. Steve Biko and Franz Fanon must be turning in their graves as they watch the great reversals that have occurred.

In the 70s through to the 90s Black Consciousness had successfully killed ethnicity and tribalism that are today rearing their ugly heads through the help of ruling party politicians who are 100 percent amaZulu, amaXhosa, Basotho or whatever their fancies choose.

This language was anathema to people of our country. The scourge of ethnicity/tribalism coupled with failure of service delivery has become the breeding ground for xenophobia. The majority of our people are poor, homeless, unemployed and powerless when they are supposed to be in power.

lLybon Mabasa is president of Sopa