The portrait of today’s South Africa as the bastion of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man is one that should diminish every South African, and indeed all Africans, who have witnessed the worst case of xenophobia in recent times. Not only are Africans outraged, the world is shocked to see black-on-black violence rise to an unprecedented high. Blacks clobbered to death by black South Africans; shops looted and businesses shut by rampaging South African youths, demanding that fellow black Africans leave their country because they have allegedly taken over jobs that ought to be occupied by natives.
The gory pictures of corpses on the streets of major South African streets, cracked skulls oozing blood and blood-soaked persons running for dear lives assail the eyes and sensibilities of every human being, that you begin to wonder what devil has gripped the South African youth; what evil has come upon the land; what kind of insanity has crept into the rainbow nation.
Truly, these are sad times for that country. These are times that detract from the pomp and glory of a country all Africans were proud of, when apartheid was dismantled and the iconic Dr. Nelson Mandela assumed office, as the first black president of a non-racial South Africa. As the footages of bleeding fellow Africans being pummelled by obviously deranged and misguided South African youths roll from global television networks, you couldn’t help wondering what would Madiba be thinking right now where he is? What would be going on in the minds of great South African freedom fighters like Walter Sisulu, Oliver Thambo, Steve Biko and the others?
Surely, Madiba would be turning in his grave to see the country he fought to unite, turning against fellow Africans whose countries fought to deal apartheid the devastating blow. Surely, South African patriots and those in the vanguard of the anti-apartheid struggle would be totally shocked to see their fellow citizens lift a hand of violence against a country like Nigeria that put its huge weight as giant of Africa behind South Africa when it mattered most. Not only did Nigeria task all her working citizens to donate towards the Free South Africa funds, our country put a hefty war chest at the disposal of the freedom fighters. Just to liberate South Africa then in the jaws and claws of the obnoxious apartheid regime.
Should we remind these misguided South African youths of Nigerian music stars like Sunny Okosuns, who sang his heart out calling on the white supremacists to give our brothers freedom? Should they not be reminded that at a time in this country every South African enjoyed scholarship in any institution of his choice in this country? Should they not be told that many of their freedom fighters, including the revered Madiba enjoyed the benevolence of this country and her leaders in those trying moments, which we gave cheerfully without grudges? They may be ignorant of these facts!
Stretching from the past to the present, Nigeria has played the big brother role to many African countries, providing them with financial, military, social to all kinds of support, but what does it get in return: Humiliation and contempt, and in some instances like we are witnessing now, threat to lives and death of its nationals. When the war raged in Liberia, Nigeria-led multinational forces, ECOMOG, flushed the insurgents out. But our citizens bore the brunt of the massacre that trailed the war of attrition. Is that the way a big brother is treated?
Today, South African youths that are baying for the blood of citizens of African nations, protesting job losses to these other citizens, ought to be told that in other parts of Africa, including Nigeria, South African firms are at the commanding heights of the economy of these countries, carting millions of dollars back home. Yet, they haven’t been attacked or blacklisted. The youths in Nigeria are not taking up cutlasses, cudgels and bows against those companies.
Should some of those crazy South African youths not be told that they are not more jobless and hungry than the Nigerian youths who haven’t vented their anger on nationals of other countries, including South Africa? Unemployment is at an all-time high here; youth unemployment is alarming. But, no quit notice has been issued to any national, because the youth know where to place the burden of providing jobs for its citizenry: The government. It is the duty of every government to provide jobs for its army of unemployed citizens, not foreigners or visitors. It is not the duty of blacks residing in South Africa engaged in lawful businesses to provide jobs for the angry youths of South Africa. It is that of the South African government. Transferring aggression or venting their frustrations on fellow blacks is the height of illiteracy, degeneracy and stupidity, which must never be cordoned by Nigeria and other African nations at the receiving end of these barbaric conduct with the fancy name of xenophobia. It is evil and condemnable.
It is in this light that the world must prevail on President Jacob Zuma and the South African leadership to call the boys of blood to order. A decisive action must be taken before it degenerates further. The Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, who first ignited the bloody harvest, by demanding the expulsion of Africans from their land, must be made to face the consequences of his insensitive and inciting speech. If there are laws in South Africa dealing with such hate speeches, he should have his day in the court of justice. His thoughtless speech has brought violence, bloodshed and deaths to his country. Should King Zwelithini not be asking his government to find a way of tackling unemployment which has hit 24 per cent? Should he not direct his anger at various leaderships in his country, rather than offering the lazy and unhelpful marching orders to hapless citizens of African countries? If South Africa won’t prosecute the King, should the International Criminal Court, ICC, fold its arms?
President Zuma must act fast and now to end the insanity going on in South Africa. He owes other African nations and the world the duty of safeguarding the lives of everyone who lives in his country. No reason is acceptable for the termination of innocent lives.
For Nigeria, the lesson is simple and clear: Let’s create a conducive economic, social and political atmosphere back home to discourage our army of economic refugees in foreign lands, who sooner than later become the butt of violence and rough tactics by viciously envious neighbours and citizens of their host countries. We must make our country work for all. That is one task the Buhari administration must take seriously. And for citizens who have legitimate reason to do business or reside outside our shores, the message must be made loud and clear: Nigeria will not accept the torture or killing of any of its citizens for no just cause. Enough should truly be enough.