On Xenophobic Attacks in South Africa

This post was first published as a Facebook status update by Dalumuzi Mhlanga and is reproduced with permission:

I am disturbed and disheartened by the xenophobia attacks in South Africa, not least because I am Zimbabwean. It’s even more disturbing because I have very close family living and working in the country. So, naturally, the images and videos of the attacks that I see force me to think about what could possibly happen to them and many other Zimbabweans.

Two things come to my mind: the first is the degree to which some of my family is, to some degree, “protected” from the attacks mainly because they live in more affluent suburbs and can conceivably fully avoid the hotspots with little inconvenience to them. It really bugs me how unevenly we experience the violence, the fear, the real threat of death that come with these attacks.

The second is: where does the buck stop in thinking about who is “responsible” for these attacks. No doubt, the violence being meted out on non-South Africans is abhorrent. We are all fully justified in condemning it. Yet, we could take it a step further and blame the ANC government for failing its people. We could blame ZANU (PF) for failing its people who’ve had to leave for South Africa to find work. We could blame the apartheid regime for the structural issues that have made it that much more difficult for ANC to resolve issues of inequality and lack of opportunity. We could blame sanctions for messing up the Zimbabwean economy. We could blame the international economics regime for starting it all with ESAP. We could blame the colonialists. We could blame anyone depending on our intellectual, philosophical, political persuasions or state of emotion today.

I think the buck stops at us. Me and you. Because what is happening is a profound lesson of history. What is my generation doing about this? What will my generation do about this? How will we provide the economic opportunity, arouse the political consciousness, build deep empathy? And it’s not enough for us to achieve that at the levels of the elite. We need these values, and more humane ways of seeing the world to form the very core of our social fabric.

This is what I grapple with. The buck stops at me and you to envision and work hard to make sure that we are all equally “protected” from such potential xenophobia attacks. Because we have food in our stomachs, political consciousness in our minds.

And love in our hearts.


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