The recurring xenophobic attacks against the nationals of other African countries by blacks in South Africa would, in so many ways, seriously affect relations between the rainbow country and other African countries as well as African unity.
The black on black violence, if not checked by the administration of President Cyril Ramaphosa, will eventually alienate South Africa from other countries in Africa and even beyond. It will make black South Africans even poorer and ill-equipped to compete with non-blacks of the multiracial country.
The reasons advanced for the bloody attacks on other Africans, especially people from Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and others such as taking their jobs, women and indulging in drugs and other crimes, are not enough to warrant the cruel attacks on fellow Africans. No doubt, South Africa has enough laws to try people who commit crimes. It is never the duty of blacks in South Africa to dispense jungle justice on other Africans whether they committed the alleged crimes or not.
If other Africans living in the country committed any crime, it is the duty of the South African police to arrest those involved and prosecute them. The unruly song of leave our country or else you die does not bode well for African unity and the new African free trade pact.
The violence in South Africa where many young people are jobless can be interrogated from the nation’s long history of apartheid policy which was very discriminatory against the blacks in favour of the minority whites and other races. The joblessness of many youths in many African countries (especially those countries whose nationals were accused of taking the jobs of black South Africans) can be traced to many years of bad leadership, corruption and consistent planlessness.
To many blacks in South Africa, independence or black rule in the country has not translated into much improvement in the standard of their living. The black rule has impoverished them the more. Most of the blacks, especially the young people, are still alienated from those that rule them since independence. The only exception here would be the revered late South African leader, President Nelson Mandela, who ruled for only one term either due to choice or old age or both.
Thabo Mbeki would have done much like Mandela but many factors with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) must have vitiated him from achieving such lofty vision for the beleaguered country. Jacob Zuma did not do much. His administration was riddled with much corruption and he did not offer much hope to his country, especially the disgruntled blacks.
Now that Cyril Ramophosa is in charge, it is expected that he should do much for the emancipation of blacks in South Africa. He should start with the education of the blacks so that they can be adequately equipped with the necessary skills to compete with other races in South Africa as well as other Africans. There is no doubt that many years of apartheid rule seriously affected the psyche of the black people in South Africa to the extent that they see everything including going to school for a degree as a matter of right and never that of serious academic study.
They can even protest if a teacher gives them a poor mark in an examination. While they have the right to protest any injustice, they should be ready to study hard like other people to acquire the relevant skills to compete favourably in the world of work. Nothing should be given to them on a golden platter. They should understand that the world is a global village. They should understand that all nationals from all countries are part of this global village.
The new clannish nationalism being championed by US President Donald Trump and people in his league does not have a place in this global village which is not encumbered by national boundaries and borders.
There is also no place for the South African xenophobia or tiny nationalism in the global village. Therefore, the complaint of black South Africans that Nigerians are taking their jobs, women and businesses is lame and indefensible. It is not tenable in law.
It only shows that some of them are indeed lazy and cannot learn from others to improve their lives. The blacks in South Africa should know that their nationals live in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. Are they not aware that their nationals live in other countries in Europe and America and even Asia? One intriguing factor in the recurring xenophobic attacks is that the black leaders in South Africa have not mustered enough political will to condemn the evil acts and apprehend those behind the violence.
The South African police have not done much to curb the rising violence. It appears the leaders in the rainbow country are tacitly supporting the attacks. It was probably the docility of the South African government that prompted the spontaneous reprisals in some parts of Nigeria. Although the Nigerian government cautioned against such reprisals, more will occur if Ramaphosa fails to contain the rampaging South Africans from attacking Nigerians in that country.
The Blacks in that country should be made to understand that nobody has monopoly of violence. Therefore, the African Union (AU) should wade into the matter and call South Africa to order. The AU leaders should make Ramaphosa to sit up and frontally address the dangerous virus. Ramaphosa should rise to the challenge by restraining his nationals from the barbaric attacks.
The new wave of nationalism being represented by xenophobia and its other rabid variants cannot serve Africa well. It is going to blight African unity and stall its economic progress. It is also going to isolate South Africa from other African countries. More seriously, it is going to jeopardize the new Africa free trade deal. Media reports have it that the xenophobic attacks in South Africa and Nigeria threaten a $60 billion bilateral trade relationship between both countries.
Beyond this, it is going to redefine Nigeria’s foreign policy with South Africa and others. Nigeria invested heavily in the fight against apartheid and acted as one of the frontline states until South Africans were liberated. Xenophobic eruptions against our people cannot be said to be the gains of our support to South Africa in their hour of need. Those in charge of our foreign policy should sit down and thoughtfully redesign it.
We should not put our money where our people will be chased around and stoned like criminals simply because they are Nigerians. The evacuation of Nigerians, who are willing to come home from South Africa, must continue. The Federal Government should not tolerate the ill-treatment of Nigerians in any foreign country, including South Africa. This is the right time to tell South Africa that enough is enough.