Xenophobia: Politicisation of tragedy

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THERE is general consensus that the xenophobic attacks that have been happening in South Africa are unacceptable, and the fact that this most despicable behaviour is happening for the second time within seven years does not speak well for the reputation of South Africa.
Only some Zimbabweans have publicly written in exoneration of the hoodlums that have been tainting the impressive legacy of Nelson Mandela, and it appears the acquittal is motivated by the need to spite Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party.
It is probably the first time in the post-colonial era where we have seen the majority of African countries publicly attacking the government of a fellow African country in a more vociferous manner than people outside Africa, including the often African-vilifying Western media. Africa is loudly appalled by the continuing xenophobic tendencies in South Africa, and the message has been coming loud and strong.
President Jacob Zuma has had his views and explanations as the head of both the ANC and of the Government of South Africa. As an ANC leader and cadre he reminded us of the historical importance of African countries to South Africa’s liberation cause. He reminded his audience that neighboring countries took bullets and bombs on behalf of South Africans, that some of them risked their lives smuggling weapons into apartheid South Africa, all in the solidarity aim of helping free oppressed siblings and kith and kin.
He publicly wondered what has gone wrong with us Africans in general, and with rogue South Africans in particular. He said when a family member does something that tarnishes the good name of the family, that family member must be isolated and shamed, and he said this is the attitude mainstream South Africa must adopt – isolating the heartless criminal hoodlums that have been at the forefront of these deplorable acts of madness.
It was rather sad to hear President Zuma saying his personal view is that the murderous deeds were actions of “common tsotsis,” taking advantage of tensions in the country.
He said this after he had just described how he could not cope with the trauma of a horrific image he had seen a few days before, an image of a decapitated person so brutally beheaded by South Africa’s own version of ISIS. The president was most likely aware that the victim of this gruesome murder had not been robbed of any belongings, but simply killed for the sole purpose of taking away her life because she had committed the most hated crime in South Africa at the moment – being a black foreigner. Advertisement

Surely President Jacob Zuma must be aware of a number of publicised interviews where the xenophobic murderers have openly told journalists that they would kill all foreigners until they return to their countries. Robbers and tsotsis are not known to give public interviews to journalists.
Justin Cambel of the CNN carried such an interview on air with easily identifiable youths, and the police were just within meters of that interview. Another CNN journalist of British origin carried a similar interview with these goons, and she asked if they would attack her since she was also a foreigner working in South Africa. She was met with an instant and emphatic NO from the gang of four, one of them adding, “not you, you are different, you have done nothing wrong.”
So we have it, our fellow white foreigners in South Africa are different, and they have done nothing wrong, and we fellow blacks have done everything wrong, and we too are different.
As head of state, President Jacob Zuma has not taken criticism as easily as he seemed to do in his speech to ANC cadres. He has said the accusations that his government has had a tardy response to the violence are misplaced, and he has also blamed the push factors in the countries from which the immigrants are hailing, asking the question, “Why are their citizens not in their countries and are in South Africa?” What a question to quench the fire of xenophobia!
He has maintained that the majority of South Africans do not share this xenophobic attitude, and that the minority xenophobic elements must not be allowed to taint the good name of South Africa.
We have seen Zambians collectively condemning what is happening in South Africa, and urging their government to send a strong message that the behavior of these rogue South Africans is unacceptable. Malawians have demonstrated their anger by peacefully expelling a few South Africans, and also boycotting South African businesses to the point of temporary closure.
Mozambicans have strongly condemned the evil deeds of these xenophobic South African hoodlums, and at some point some Mozambican nationals returned wrong with wrong when they stoned some cars with South African number plates at one of the shared border posts.
Nigeria has recalled its ambassador to South Africa as the highest sign of protest so far, and before that we saw Nigerian nationals staging a number of protest demonstrations against what is happening in South Africa.
Kenya shares the same problem of immigrant influxes with South Africa, with 2.5 million Somalis domiciled in the Eastern African country. That number does not include Sudanese refugees and other nationals from neighbouring countries. Even with the senseless provocations from the idiots that make up the murderous Somali terrorist group Al-Shabab, Kenya has not been tempted to stone foreigners, or to burn them to death.
Zimbabwe holds the misplaced view that it is the intelligentsia of the continent, the hub of literacy and brilliant thinking. Yet it is only Zimbabweans that have found in the tragedy of xenophobia a political football to kick around in a deplorably insensitive manner.
Respected academic Professor Ken Mufuka tells us that Zimbabweans must not expect South Africa to treat us well, and he says not until we start treating each other well back home. In other words South Africa must reinforce whatever brutalities they perceive to be bedeviling us at home, because we deserve it. I think that kind of argument does not even rise to the level of nonsense.  
He writes that Zimbabweans who are blaming South African hoodlums for xenophobia are guilty of ignoring their own history at the very best, and of denial at the worst. In short, Professor Mufuka is telling all of us that when you have a terrible history, and you then see a terrible thing happening, you are not qualified morally, politically or ethically to view that thing as bad, unless you have forgotten your own sins, or you are in denial of the same sins.
When a Zimbabwean sees South African hoodlums looting a Somali’s retail shop he must endorse the barbarism as acceptable, because he hails from a country with a terrible past. Again this reasoning is harebrained and preposterous.
Professor Mufuka reminds us of Gukurahundi, hailing Brilliant Mhlanga for a job well done in regurgitating the sorrows of that unfortunate part of our history. Mufuka argues that what the xenophobic goons of South Africa are doing is a replica of what the Zimbabwe security forces were doing during Gukurahundi, and he alleges that they targeted people with Ndebele names for persecution and even killing, especially at roadblocks.
I am not sure whether Prof Ken Mufuka is elevating the murderous acts of the xenophobic goons in South Africa to the levels of a civil war, or he is reducing the civil war we had in Zimbabwe in the eighties to a mere act of misdirected street thugs targeting people for petty reasons. Whichever maybe the case, Prof Mufuka must understand the stupidity of contrived reasoning, given his many years in academia.
Mufuka tells us that we are being punished for introducing our “flea market economy” in South Africa, and he says we must accept our fate because we deserve it. It seems the xenophobic attacks are in Mufuka’s eyes a matter between bitter South Africans and offensive Zimbabweans. When one decides to politicise a tragedy like the one we have seen happening in South Africa, the bigger tragedy is the slaughtering of the good name of academia. One becomes so simplistic as to be stupid.
Minister Lindiwe Zulu was in January this year encouraging foreign retailers to share their skills with South Africans, and Professor Mufuka is accusing the same retailers of exporting “flea market economies” into South Africa.
For sure we Zimbabweans must bow down in shame for contributing 4000 prisoners to South Africa’s prison population. But to say for that reason we must applaud the actions of xenophobic goons, or at the very least ignore them? I think such thinking borders on insanity.
Or to say because Ben Freeth had his land-based bitter experiences here; we must be silenced when an atrocity is happening elsewhere. Surely Freeth himself as a victim (in his own view) was allowed all avenues to express his outrage, making a film included.
Professor Mufuka did not wave the atrocious card of colonial history in Freeth’s face, telling him to accept his fate gracefully because of his forefathers’ evil past, but he wants to do that for fellow Zimbabweans facing barbaric death in South Africa.  
I read for the first time that Murambatsvina was an anti-MDC campaign. Why was that war veteran settlement in Kambuzuma bulldozed to the ground if the targeted settlements were supposed to be those of MDC activists? Cde Chinx had his multi-bedroomed house grazed down in what was then a well-publicised matter, and was he not the main singer of the Hondo Yeminda revolution?
But again we are being fed with contrived logic from the desk of respected academicians. It is unfortunate.
Indeed Zimbabwe must address its own ghosts. We have an economy that needs urgent attention. We need to attract immigrants as opposed to manufacturing them for other countries. These are given realities. But surely to use our sorry predicament as a silencing tool for matters happening in international affairs is a sign of great misdirection.
Wisdom Katunga writes what he calls a public letter to Prof Jonathan Moyo, accusing of him of being judgmental in regards to xenophobia in South Africa. He tells the professor to be grateful for South Africa’s role in taking Zimbabweans.
I have no intention whatsoever to become Minister Jonathan Moyo’s spokesperson, but surely this business of elevating individual opinion on social media to matters of government policy is quite puerile. Government ministers have personal opinions too, much as they have feelings like all of us. It is hard to imagine South Africa raising an issue of being judged through a tweeter page of one of the Ministers.
Katunga does not tell us what the judgmental statement was, most likely because he does not have any such statement to quote, but not even lack of evidence will dissuade him from making a case against someone he sees as standing between him and his domestic political convictions.
It does not make sense to suggest that Minister Moyo’s comments on xenophobia in South Africa are a serious distraction from efforts to fulfill ZANU-PF election promises. Can that be proven measurably?
What can be proven is that Katunga is dragging in his domestic political garbage in matters international, and its unfortunate that he still sees himself as “an independent political thinker and social analyst.” When one is thinking under the influence of political frustration they cannot be at the same time an independent political thinker.
If we Zimbabweans fail to stand together against this evil of xenophobia against our country folks what statement are we sending to the world? There are times when no one should question the need for patriotism.
Zimbabwe we are on and together we will overcome! It is homeland or death.

REASON WAFAWAROVA is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia.