In the 1990s I resided in the area in Lusaka, Zambia’s Capital, in the flats (apartment buildings) previously occupied by the leaders of the South African African National Congress (ANC). It is believed that all the giants of South African political struggles, including Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma, Nelson Mandela, and many icons took refuge there at some point. Zambia and other African countries generously helped, sometimes with their own blood, to free South Africa from Apartheid brutality.
Why are we today reading and witnessing a blatant lack of gratitude from the Black South African government of Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa? When President Ramaphosa succeeded Jacob Zuma in 2018, he was hailed as a Saviour. He had vowed to work for the ordinary citizen, root out the country’s corruption and curb the gaping inequality that continue to infuriate millions of South Africans. Now, the president seems to be sanctioning a form of debilitating xenophobia I can only dub, “Alienophobia,” or a deluded fear of, and subsequent termination of Black foreigners in South Africa.
Disgruntled South Africans blame foreigners or “Kwerekweres” for their miseries. They want to violently attack and kill any Kwerekwere who fails to leave South Africa by May 13th, 2019 (the culminating Monday after the elections on May 8th, 2019). Like the White Supremacists in USA, the Alienphobes believe that the foreigners are responsible for their poverty and lack of employment. This cannot be too, too far from the truth. It is a clear disregard and willful blindness to the history of South Africa. And it is not my intention to re-lecture South Africans about their own history. It is, however, important to learn from general African history, in terms of genocides and violence.
We all remember the genocide in Rwanda. The Rwandan genocide by the Hutu majority government between April and July 1994 was a blood-bath, a brutal slaughter of the Tutsis in Rwanda during the 1990s Rwandan Civil War. In that slaughter, within three months, close to one million people were murdered. This was while the world watched. Both the UN and OAU (currently African Union – AU) were flatly impotent. African nations watched, and so did the West. No matter the excuse or justification, the world let the Tutsis down.
We cannot overlook or ignore what is brewing underneath South Africa. Hate is blind to reason. The South African government should not only protect foreigners from the hooligans, but also under international law, the nation has an obligation to do so. Where the South African government fails its duty, the UN should exercise its Responsibility to Protect (R2P) mandate. The regional organizations in Africa as well as the AU should speak out directly and strongly against the pending atrocities of innocent foreigners in South Africa.
President Ramaphosa may easily win the re-election, but at what expense. Mr. Ramaphosa understands better what Nelson Mandela did and stood for. The president should not sacrifice principle for blood. He should stand up for the Black people of Africa resident in South Africa. These are the people who sold him cattle and made him rich. These are the people who sacrificed to liberate South Africa from Apartheid. These are the people who, in future, will still stand up for South Africa. What is happening in South Africa to aliens and foreigners should be condemned by all and should stop.
The Good Book is speaking to South Africa: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners [under Apartheid],” (Leviticus 19:34).
By Charles Mwewa