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Africa: Xenophobia an Affront to AU Jubilee
The Herald (Harare)
Saturday, June 01, 2013

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Attacks against foreign immigrants in South Africa have once again become a talking point. The recent xenophobic attacks in Johannesburg's Diepsloot did not only result in the death of two Zimbabweans, but they also resulted in the destruction of property. Since the problem started in 2008, dozens of innocent lives have been lost.

This sad incident occurred against the backdrop of the Golden Jubilee of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, now African Union. Thus such barbarism flew in the face of the theme of the year-long celebrations, "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance".

It was also against the spirit of a united and strong Africa.

The resurgence of these xenophobic attacks, which have been roundly condemned by the South African government and civic organisations, however make us ask why there is such a high level of intolerance, and more precisely, why the attacks are targeted against Africans by other Africans.

Are we to conclude that the perpetrators are saying that they are not their brothers' keepers? Is this what the new South Africa means? Is this in keeping with the spirit of the Rainbow Nation?

When immigrants from other continents, especially the West, can come to South Africa and integrate without any hassles, what does it say about our mindsets if we attack each other?

We do not also condone those who committed crimes, but it is for law enforcement agents to bring them to book, and not for citizens to take the law into their own hands.

We also ask what the difference is between the immigrants from other parts of the world who not only go to search for opportunities, but also contribute toward the South African economy? Why are they cushioned? Are they also not taking the jobs that black Africans are accused of taking from their fellow brothers and sisters?

It is an open secret that South Africa's first world economy is a result of the sweat and blood of immigrants drawn from across the continent, Zimbabwe included.

South Africa is the continent's leading economy, which attracts people from all over and when we have such a scenario, they will have people who will risk their lives to enter South Africa to seek these opportunities.

South Africans should realise that if those opportunities were non-existent, they would not have immigrants trekking from as far afield as Somalia, risking their lives and paying heavy sums of money just to cross the Limpopo River.

People reduce themselves to border jumpers because they know that every cloud has a silver lining.

This is the important element that some in South Africa need to understand and appreciate.

They also need to realise that a majority of these people enter South Africa with lots of skills and knowledge, which they are willing to share with South Africa.

As fortune seekers, they cannot afford to choose whether a job is high paying or not. They need a starting point while they seek that "South African dream" and starting a new life.

The scenario that South Africa finds itself is also not unique.

Immigrants make it because they are focused on making it. They will identify opportunities where locals see none.

They don't mind starting small, but since they are driven by the desire to make it, they work hard. They cannot be punished for being enterprising, unless of course they break the country's laws and do not contribute to the national fiscus.

Thus we question why the new South Africa would want to keep out fellow Africans while it accepts immigrants from other parts of the world. Are these values espoused in the Freedom Charter?

When Africa is talking about seamless borders, intra-trade, peace and security, why should this intolerance continue to be tolerated? And, who benefits at the end of the day?

In as much as immigrants need opportunities that South Africa offers, the reverse is also true.

South Africans also need to tap into what these immigrants have to offer in terms of entrepreneurial skills. What it means is that we can use these opportunities to cross-pollinate and share skills and knowledge.

The OAU/AU Golden Jubilee offered that rare opportunity for Africans to unite toward a common goal of ensuring that this continent develops through the brains of 1 billion people on the continent. As the continent's leading economy, South Africa is looked up to by the rest of the continent for leadership, and these xenophobic attacks cannot be allowed to dent that.

We also understand the anger in some of the people, but if the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up to ensure that blacks and whites co-existed freely in a post-apartheid South Africa, the same can be done in order to address the problem of xenophobia.

The borders between our countries were created at the 1885 Berlin conference that partitioned our continent for easy plunder, we are one people.

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