A Yoruba proverb says there is nothing new under the sun and many times I have believed that there is nothing in the news that can be really surprising or shocking. But then again and again, I am constantly still surprised and shocked. Humans it turns out are simply unpredictable. Extremely unpredictable. How can one explain murderous xenophobia in South Africa. In 2015?! How? The same South Africa where there was no killing or looting of white South Africans after the apartheid!
I have seen a lot of comments and criticisms by people who, like myself, simply cannot fathom how a country that just till less than 25 years ago was under the infamous segregation policy known as Apartheid and which knows very well what it means to be exploited could degenerate into an aggressor of a similar kind in this modern age.
Some have even said that they probably deserved what they got during the apartheid if they can turn murderously on their fellow Africans but I disagree. The apartheid was wrong and the actions of South Africans now is wrong. It may even be argued that the apartheid itself was responsible for breeding a people so shallow in thought and sophistication that they resort to looting and killing foreigners of the same skin colour because of their own economic condition.
History has shown time and again that the last resort of immature societies is to blame foreigners for their woes. Humans are configured to find a reason for everything and in many cases when the reason for their hardship is beyond their comprehension or overwhelming, the easy scapegoats are the strangers or foreigners among them.
Nigeria marched out almost a million Ghanaians in 1983. The cause is similar to that in South Africa today. The economy was bad and the government felt that removing the foreigners from the list of people to cater for would make things easier. Nigerians too felt this was a good thing as then they could have all the jobs to themselves. But then again history has shown time again that sending away foreigners is never a solution. To continue with the Nigerian example, the Ghanaians went back to their country and have built a country that has been able to achieve uninterrupted power supply while Nigeria is still struggling with power generation (As I write this, there has been no power in my house for the last 6 days).
Thankfully Nigerians did not set out murderously on the Ghanaians. I wish I could say this has always been the way we act but we have had several murderous tribal clashes too, especially between Igbos and Hausas.
This same old drama has played out in Rwanda, where the Hutu simply believed that if they could kill every Tutsi, Rwanda will become a paradise overnight. in 1972, the Idi Amin led government of Uganda also eliminated its own middle class overnight by expelling all Ugandans of Asian origin because the local Ugandans envied the wealth of the foreigners. The result was a total destruction of the economy overnight.
Not only Africans have fallen into this dangerous way of thinking. After world war I, the miserable economic situation of the Germans had to be blamed on someone or of course a group of people. The scapegoats the Nazi government in power chose to blame were the Jews and the resulting blood-letting of innocent people is unmatched in history.
Ultimately, this kind of action is always from frustrated and illiterate people who simply cannot understand how and why they do not have enough but a foreigner is more prosperous than them.
President Zuma has said that “While some foreign nationals have been arrested for various crimes, it is misleading and wrong to label or regard all foreign nationals as being involved in crime in the country.” This shows that he still does not understand or does not accept the real situation of things in his country. If this was an issue of locals aggrieved by “some foreign nationals” been involved in crimes, how does it explain burning shops and business of foreigners? How does it explain looting the shops and homes of foreigners? How does it explain attacking children?!
If there is anything else history has showed us, it is that these kinds of situations only get worse if the government does not take active steps to start fixing things. This is not just a case of South Africans suddenly hating everyone who is not a native, this is a deeper issue. The Zuma led government of South Africa should recognize this for what it really is, the South African economy is not doing as well as it should be doing. The government is failing its people. Period.
It will be total shame if a country that fought for decades to be ruled by the African majority fails like other failed African states just over two decades after they eventually gained freedom. It will simply validate the theory mouthed in some circles that Africans are simply incapable of governing ourselves.