When Manasseh Azure’s militia story became subject of national debate and his life and that of his family were at risk, it was in the South of Africa he took solace while in exile. A shoe he brought me from there was durable to the extent that I expect that shoe to stand the many errands I would be doing as a national service personnel ; and If ever given the opportunity to choose among African nations where I would like to further my education aside my beloved country Ghana, the University of Pretoria in South Africa may cross my mind.
Obviously, South Africa is a desired place for safety, relaxation, work and education. It is not surprising that the country houses many travelers. It is estimated that between 2010 and 2017, the immigrant community in South Africa increased from 2 million to 4 million people.
But my wish remains only a dream. The rainbow nation has suffered some dark days which would plunge any visitor or investors into an emotional cocktail. From 1948 until the 1990s, racial discrimination spread across its borders and neighboring countries. Though it was expected the majority rule experienced in the 1994s would have ended this growing phenomenon of attacking foreigners living and trading in South Africa, it rather increased the violence. From wiki sources, about one hundred and thirty (130) lives (both South Africans and foreigners) were lost between the years 2000 and 2008. Some human rights watchers say, these spike of violence, unfortunately, have not seen any action from the political establishment, justice has not been served to bring this generational evil to a stop. 2015 did not tell a different story of the rainbow nation!
On 2nd September 2019, a dark cloud came over the rainbow nation once again with renewed attacks on foreign and local citizens, especially Nigerians and South Africans. Close to fifty shops, especially multinationals were looted. A fleet of cars were set ablaze in garages belonging to foreign traders. A domino effect was created in some countries which had its nationals caught up in the attacks – we saw retaliatory violence in Nigeria with South African shops and citizens being the primary targets. We have also seen widespread condemnation, diplomatic withdrawals and corporate sanctions from the African Union, sister countries, multinational companies, the media and the international community.
Many have asked what went wrong again. It was patriotism gone wrong: According to media reports, a South African taxi driver attempted to conduct a citizen arrest of a Nigerian who was alleged to be a drug-dealer. The latter resisted and shot the driver. In retaliation, South African protesters took to the streets to mete out brutish attacks on Nigerians.
But the remote causes of these xenophobic attacks go beyond the above. There has been hatred among fellow Africans in SA. According to a 2018 Pew Research cited by wiki sources, sixty-two percent (62%) of South Africans including some politicians viewed immigrants as a burden on society. They blame their fellow Africans (immigrants) for taking their jobs and social entitlements. The same poll reveals that about sixty-one percent (61%) of South Africans think that immigrants were more responsible for the upsurge in drug peddling and crimes on the streets. It is indeed sad that we blame our fellow Africans solely for the woes of the continents when the responsibility is always shared; when we have a common enemy of poverty, corruption, unemployment etc and a neo-colonial god.
Back home, in Ghanaian parlance, the conduct of South Africa and the perpetrators of this evil could be described as ‘patapaa’, a quality of a person who does not listen to any advice or word of caution when in a fight with his brethren. He is bent on using force to get what he wants in retaliation. In the context of these senseless attacks, both the lose-taking political leadership and the mad citizens on the streets are culprits of this patapaa spirit. Hence, every well-meaning African should welcome the many calls for necessary regional and diplomatic sanctions being proposed by the diplomatic society to be slapped on the warring nations.
But as a Nigerian would call on ‘God’ for divine intervention in his parlance in these times, it is only ‘Chineke’ who can save Africa from these senseless self-inflictions.
Once again, we are reminded we are ‘Afrikans’, not Nigerians, not South Africans, not Ghanaians, and not any other country; for we make this continent what it is, good or bad.
The writer is the 2019/2020 best graduating student in print journalism and the most promising student journalist of GIJ.