Monday, May 19, 2008

Xenophobia - images of shocking hatred

For a photo presentation on the xenophobic violence raging in Gauteng at present, click on the image below.

I wish against all odds that the xenophobic madness currently under way in South Africa will abate overnight and that we can simply forget about it. But this will off-course not happen by some miracle. It will need commitment, firstly acknowledgement, and strong determined action from Government and all kinds of civic and political leaders.

The current orgy of hate and lawlessness cannot be ignored or dealt with by run of the mill press statements. Blaming it on 'criminal elements' is also ludicrous as it is as clear as daylight that these acts are being perpetrated by large sections of the particular communities - not just a few individuals. President Mbeki needs to address the nation via national TV and radio and make clear that the Government will not tolerate the evil of Xenophobia. He can gather the new ANC leadership (including Jacob Zuma) and other prominent leaders around him when making such a statement. Obviously this needs to be backed up by action. We don't have the convenience of avoiding the embarrassment of deploying the SANDF in our streets to restore order, it should have been done already. Civil society should also mobilise and reach out a hand to the foreigners at the receiving end of the violence.

Addressing the many failings that contributed to the current situation must receive urgent attention once the violence has been stemmed. But for now talk of poverty, crime, corruption and the like will not end the violence. What is needed is unqualified condemnation of this scourge at the highest level and forceful action.


BBC online video on the violence here (external link)





Wessel said...

Very informative Mike.

Wessel said...

Het jy gesien ons is famous ;)

Mike said...

Moet bieg, ek's nogal verbaas en heel chuffed... Dis jammer dat die onderwerp nie meer positief kon wees, maar dit laat mens dink dat iemand nou en dan hul aan 'n klein vissie kan steur! Thanks vir die link.

Anonymous said...

Is the only difference between today and a few weeks ago the fact that it is now hitting international news???

How many murders are there on a daily basis? How many rapes? How many (white, black, Indian) people suffer mercilessly at the hands of criminals on a daily basis there?

How many of us South Africans living in Europe, live here because this is NOT NEWS TO US!

I'm sorry for what is happening in SA. Very sorry.

But I am "happy" that the rest of the world is finally taking notice of something that has been a problem for years!

This is not news. This was "day-to-day" life for many of us when we were still in SA - wasn't it?

Mike said...

mmm... carduci?

You may have accidentally chosen to post anonymously but that's not of much use if you post exactly the same comment somewhere else...

I've seen Wessel's (Mhambi) response to the same comment by you on his blog (link above). I think what he probably points out, apart from the fact that he blogged about the issue two months ago, is that in intellectual circles in South Africa the problem of xenophobia (and selective labelling of incidents as being racist only when perpetrated by whites) and the causes thereof have been acknowledged and dissected for some time. The two persons Wessel quote in his earlier post, to which he referred you, make very valuable points. As does those in the post you commented on. It's definitively worth reading Mhambi :-).

However, I'm a bit skittish about equating every problem in South Africa to the next. In my mind that does not assist us in looking for useful solutions or apportioning blame where it is due.

You say: "How many murders are there on a daily basis? How many rapes? How many (white, black, Indian) people suffer mercilessly at the hands of criminals on a daily basis there?"

It is true that the graveness of what you mention above has diminished, in terms of the airtime / column space it is given, in the local and international media over time.

There are two glaring similarities between the crimes you mention and the current wave of xenophobia, namely violence and the suffering (often death) of innocent victims.

However, the current wave of xenophobia is quite extraordinary in its scale and boldness. While there has been incidents of xenophobia in especially the Cape Town area last year (on which Mhambi also posted before...), including many deaths, it was nothing like what we're seeing now. The current xenophobic attacks demand very forceful reaction. Off-course there are many underlying causes which have been ignored or mismanaged for way too long.

A disturbing difference, in my mind, between the alarmingly high rate of the crimes you mention and the current xenophobia is the level of general community participation therein. I would argue that in the case of the crimes you mention individual criminals or gangs are to blame. In the case of cash-in-transit heists gangs often number more than twenty members. While some of these criminals are inexcusably tolerated by the communities they live in, it does not mean that there is (active) general participation in the crimes.

However, what is frightening about the current wave of xenophobia is the seemingly high level of participation therein, i.e. by members of the particular communities (not simply criminal elements as the Government likes to suggest). It reminds one of the anti-apartheid violence in the 80's. As pointed out in Mhambi's quote of Xolela Mangcu these similarities are cause for concern. I fear that in the current xenophobia is to be found the seeds of tribal war and ethnic cleansing. These are not simply matters of crime, it is the kind of stuff that can kill hundreds, thousands or even millions if allowed to fester and ruin whole regions for generations. Thankfully we're not nearly at that point and I honestly don't expect us to get there, but it is the kind of thing that Government should keep in mind as it deals (hopefully...) with the extremely urgent issue.

Obviously the crimes that you mention is disgusting and crying out for real attention. But the two sets of evils are not quite the same.