XENOPHOBIA ATTACKS

South Africa owes Mandela, Africa and world a duty to make peace with itself

Much as xenophobia has become synonymous with contemporary South Africa, the roots of this wild rage are quite old.

In Summary

• South Africa is still grappling with the unhealed wounds of the Apartheid regime that brutalised and discriminated against Black South Africans.

• There is this dangerously growing but misplaced hatred for economic migrants coupled with economic introversion and islamophobia spearheaded by populist politicians in first- world countries.

South Africans holding crude weapons
South Africans holding crude weapons
Image: COURTESY

That the country that gave Africa and the world Nelson Mandela as an iconic peacemaker is once again in the throes of a spectre of episodic xenophobia is outrageously disturbing.

Nothing could justify the perpetration of violence against peaceful and law-abiding foreigners, who are particularly fellow Africans living in South Africa as economic migrants.

Much as xenophobia has become synonymous with contemporary South Africa, the roots of this wild rage are quite old.

 

First, South Africa is still grappling with the unhealed wounds of the Apartheid regime that brutalised and discriminated against Black South Africans and placed them in impoverished areas where many still live in squalor and unemployment. This expounds the need for more efforts on reconciliation and economic empowerment to alleviate hatred and poverty.

Another important but less acknowledged reason for the problem is that just as the late Professor Ali Mazrui observed, that Nelson Mandela was "less Pan-African than the Pan-Africanism he caused in others", South Africa seems to have a similar quality of having not embraced Africa the same way the continent has embraced it.

Small wonder then that criminals behind these episodic waves of xenophobia brutalise and mistreat their fellow Africans like unwelcome strangers.

But even beyond South Africa, such as US President Donald Trump and Hungary Prime Minister Victor Orban. This reveals the selfishness of the materialistic capitalist economic system where individuals and states try to achieve happiness and success at the expense and sometimes at the detriment of others.

The global scale of human hatred calls for a countervailing narrative and policies that would establish love and a sense of "human family".

For example, in a brief but powerful lecture at an interfaith forum in Michigan, US, Mazrui shared a popular verse from the Holy Qur'an that he used to build a positive theory that perhaps America was specially chosen by God to be a laboratory for fashioning a global human family. This, he said, is because its demography is more representative of the human race than any other nation in the world, even though it hasn't yet succeeded in establishing tolerance for cultural diversity.

The verse reads:

 

"O mankind, indeed we have created you from male and female and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted." (49:13)

In her poem titled, 'Human family', Maya Angelou also beautifully observed:

"… Mirror twins are different although their features jibe, and lovers think quite different thoughts while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China,

we weep on England’s moors,

and laugh and moan in Guinea,

and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,

are born and die in Maine.

In minor ways we differ,

in major we’re the same.

I note the obvious differences between each sort and type,

but we are more alike,

my friends, than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,

than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,

than we are unalike."

Therefore, South Africa owes Mandela, Africa and the world a duty to make peace with itself in ways that are more genuine and practical than rhetorical.

The rest of the world also has to extinguish the raging fires of hatred and its related problems of inequality, migration and conflict and turn the human focus on building an enduring love and an altruistic desire to be one's brother's and sister's keeper.

As American leader Bayard Rustin once said, "If we desire a society in which men are brothers, then we must act towards one another with brotherhood. If we can build such a society, then we would have achieved the ultimate goal of human freedom."

 Mohamed is a social-political commentator in Garissa county