Xenophobia: Migrants burnt alive

 “People don’t change,

they just stop pretending

and become who they always were”.

– Anonymous

Lately, the world is spinning as if it has time-travelled to the heinous era of South African apartheid, Britain’s ‘No Blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ segregation, Nazi Germany and pre-African-American Civil Rights movement. In other words, xenophobia is as prevalent and as exact – blood stain by blood stain – as the history books say it once was.

We’re in desperate need for an answer amidst the widespread horror across the world – the beheadings and torching of foreigners, including women and children, in South Africa. Cue: Nigel Farage’s mantra, “The foreigners are stealing our jobs” or David Cameron’s “they must embrace our British values” as the given reasons.

The truth is, there is no objective definition of “British values”; a term that has furnished much of Westminster’s speeches and is increasingly used for radical measures against foreigners to “protect culture”. In countries like South Africa, this rhetoric is fuelling an eruption of xenophobic violence.

In recent weeks, attacks on foreign nationals have increased in South Africa. The message: “We don’t want people with passports. We only want to see people with South African Ids”, a spokesperson of the xenophobic movement said.

Tensions continue to escalate following the death of at least seven people, and foreigners’ shops – and homes – are being looted and torched.  Once reputed as a haven of tolerance for the poor and afflicted, the nation’s image is in tatters.

Predictably, no other African state is supporting the attacks.  Heads of state from the continent have condemned the violence with Nigeria particularly causing a stir within the South African government. Nigeria’s decision to withdraw its envoys from Pretoria, managed to ruffle the southern country’s feathers.

South Africa’s Department of International Cooperation, derides the Nigerian government over its inability to rein in the Boko Haram insurgency in the north of its country. In addition to Nigeria, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia have all condemned the violence. South African organisations in Malawi wrote in a statement that they “unequivocally condemn the violence against foreign nationals in their country.

With the attacks stemming from a perception that immigrants are taking their jobs at the expense at South African citizens, South African mobs have been attacking shops owned by people from other African nations, including Congo and Somalia. Over 3,000 foreigners have been repatriated, since the violence with nearly 300 South Africans arrested.

Naturally, there have been marches across the world denouncing both the violence and the South African government’s stance on the matter. As the majority of migrants in South Africa are from neighbouring Zimbabwe, there have been mass demonstrations today in Harare, Zimbabwe ahead of a SADC summit with African leaders on industrial growth.

“It’s an extraordinary summit and by definition it’s a one-issue [xenophobia] summit”, Zimbabwe’s presidential spokesperson George Charamba said.

 

TNT News Yasin Chinembiri

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