After the 1994 elections a new South Africa was born. Mandela, an inspirational and great leader was at the helm, the pilot of this ship called freedom. We became Africa’s eye candy and this destination was the land of milk and honey. Many Africans flocked to South Africa from their destitute and dry land in search for the promised free housing, healthcare and education – the most basic of needs.
Fast-forward to 2008 when the first massive attack on foreigners occurred and drew international attention. With the violence against foreign nationals, extreme looting – or should we say unauthorised store-product withdrawals -are made. These attacks are brutally violent, women are sexually assaulted and not even young children or babies are spared of this torture. In most cases xenophobic attacks occur in the townships and hostels and the medium of attack is mob violence.
Research has shown xenophobic attacks are linked to racial and linguistic diversity, low education levels and limited access to basic services. The real question or research should have an inward focus. South Africans have a deep ingrained hatred for one another. Zulus don’t get along with Xhosas, a fair coloured with straight hair doesn’t mix with a dark-skinned coloured with “kroes” hair. White Afrikaners are considered common by English-speaking whites. Light-skinned Indians don’t mix with dark Indians. You will marry your kind.
No wonder some South Africans can’t stand foreign nationals when they can’t even tolerate their own. Let’s not even get started on how blacks hated coloureds as they were deemed “better” during apartheid. This “internal” class, social status, tribal classification, or whatever you would like to call it, is deep-rooted in an almost unsaid culture, a by-product of the apartheid era, and yet we didn’t anticipate a recipe for disaster when we opened our borders so freely.
In any entity or environment when the going gets tough, such as South Africa’s economic state, the risk for catastrophes is elevated and maximised. Unemployment is at its highest, economic conditions impact the poor the most and yet our brothers from another country appear to be making it big time, they appear to be cashing in, the are living the life in “my” country.
We need to take a hard look at why we are failing as a nation, as a community as neighbours. We cannot blame foreign nationals for exploring and sometimes exploiting the opportunities in the land of milk and honey. One thing foreign nationals have learnt is that you stick together, you build each other up and by doing that you all become successful. The day we learn people need people and we need to uplift each other is the day we slowly start getting rid of our ingrained hatred.