There are no foreign Africans, only blood ties that bind us

Simon Khaya Moyo, our ambassador to South Africa, has been said by some disgruntled citizens to be truly "lying abroad for his country".

Simon Khaya Moyo, our ambassador to South Africa, has been said by some disgruntled citizens to be truly "lying abroad for his country".

But once in a while he comes up with a gem of a truism.

In an interview on the xenophobia-related slaughter of foreigners in South Africa, he said Zimbabweans had trekked to South Africa for ages.

At the turn of the 20th century a man named Mushure Ngwaru, nicknamed Langwani (The Tall One), was attracted by the promise of riches down south. He left his wife in a village in Mashonaland east, pregnant with their first child.

He returned after the child was born, bearing gifts for the family.He stayed long enough to leave his wife pregnant again, before returning to Eldorado.

Mushure was never seen again. I have always imagined an encounter with one of Mushure's offspring in South Africa but so far it has eluded me.

Or maybe all his progeny have renounced their Zimbabwean-ness, for reasons related to xenophobia.

Mushure was my maternal grandfather. My mother was the second of his daughters. The first was Faith Dauti's mother. In South Africa anyone who has followed the history of urban music in Zimbabwe will remember her.

To imagine that I have blood relatives in Alexandra or Sandton or Soweto or District Six boggles my mind.

I heard Hugh Masekela, in an interview in London, holding forth on the xenophobic massacre. Like many others, he blamed it on poverty.

Masekela's anti-xenophobia hymn is Chileshe, which he delivers with characteristic passion. He is as well travelled as Miriam Makeba; both have recorded songs in languages other than their own, a tribute to their status as recognised "citizens of Africa".

They have both been to Zimbabwe many times, Makeba as part of the Manhattan Brothers tour in the early 1960s. I doubt there would be, among the demented murderers of foreigners, their descendants.

As well travelled and cultured Africans I doubt they would have progeny so misguided as to derive any satisfaction from murdering innocent fellow Africans.

I also doubt if any descendants of Todd Matshikiza, whose acquaintance I made in Zambia, would be lured to such mindless savagery.

I saw his son John Matshikiza, now a recognised newspaper columnist, in Lusaka when he was very young. I have no doubt he will have been shocked by the attacks.

Xenophobia is described as a "morbid" fear or hatred of foreigners. It's a sickness. Claustrophobia and agoraphobia are illnesses too, the first a fear of being closed in, the second of open spaces.

These are not natural human conditions: not everyone is afraid of open or enclosed spaces as soon as they are born, neither are they xenophobic from birth.

If these are illnesses, let's treat them as such, with therapy or straitjackets.

lBill Saidi is deputy editor of The Standard in Zimbabwe.