VIOLENCE BEGETS VIOLENCE

Xenophobic attacks won’t right historical wrongs

The past cannot be used as a crutch for present bad behaviour.

In Summary

• Africa must issue sanctions against South Africa to force them to deal with xenophobia decisively.

• The Ramaphosa government seems to have perfected the art of lip service, every time they issue statements the violence gets worse.

Demonstrators in South Africa on April 7, 2017. /REUTERS
Demonstrators in South Africa on April 7, 2017. /REUTERS

The Kenyan leadership must be experiencing an eerie feeling as it watches the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

A few months ago Starehe MP Charles Njagua, popularly known as Jaguar, went on a xenophobic tirade. In a video that went viral on social media, Jaguar was filmed threatening foreigners to shut down their business or they would be kicked out.

That tirade promptly landed him in prison for a few days and was silenced immediately. The response from the government was swift. At some point, though, this discussion must be had without whipping up any negative emotions.

 

For South Africa, however, the story is different. It seems that backlash from different quarters has had no effect in stopping the ugly attacks on other Africans. 

Yes, a number of African countries pulled out of the just-completed World Economic Forum 2019 in Cape Town. Others, such as Tanzania, stopped their planes from taking the South African route while others are recalling their envoys.

Additionally, South African businesses in Nigeria, Malawi and DRC, among others, have either been vandalised or forced to shut down by citizens showing support for their countrymen who they feel are being unfairly targeted.

Africa must come to a place where we stop giving excuses for crazed actions, whether by leadership or citizens. While not underestimating historical injustices that should be dealt with, we must get to a point where we accept that choices have consequences.

Still we wake up to fresh attacks on African nationals and their businesses. Africa must now stand as one and not only speak but issue sanctions against South Africa to force them to deal with xenophobia decisively.

Africa must come to a place where we stop giving excuses for crazed actions, whether by leadership or citizens. While not underestimating historical injustices that should be dealt with, we must get to a point where we accept that choices have consequences. The past cannot continually be used as a crutch for present bad behaviour.

John Maxwell, a leadership guru, aptly notes that "life is a matter of choices and every choice you make, makes you". Being violent is a choice. Violence becomes a choice for the citizenry when they feel there will not be a backlash and they can get away with their ill-advised actions. No one is as dangerous as one who has nothing to lose or one who suffers no consequences.

Our reactions to circumstances, whether positive or negative, are all about deliberate choices. "No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love," noted former South African President Nelson Mandela.

 
 

Leaders must be seen to act against violence and not give lip service to it. When not addressed decisively violence begets violence, which consequently becomes a monster too hard to tame. The Ramaphosa government seems to have perfected the art of lip service seeing that every time they issue statements, the violence gets worse.

"You are going to come across people in your life who will say all the right words at all the right times. But in the end, it's always their actions you should judge them by. It's actions, not words, that matter," Nicolas Sparks, a leading novelist, once said. Sounds like common sense, that actions speak louder than words. The last time l checked though, common sense was not so common after all.