Xenophobic violence in South Africa: Open letter to Jonathan Moyo

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Dear Honourable J. N. Moyo, M. P.
I write this letter as an African who just like you, is very much concerned about the recent spate of xenophobic violence in South Africa. But more precisely, I write this letter after noting your comments on social media in relation to this violence and particularly your response to a freedom day speech by the South African President, Jacob Zuma wherein he expressed his concerns about the continued influx of migrants into South Africa and the need for other African countries to improve conditions at home to avoid their citizens migrating in droves.
I have to mention from the outset that your various comments have been quite judgmental for a man who, for a long time, has been part of a system that has done worse to its own people. Please note that I am not trying to deny you the right to comment against xenophobia in South Africa, I simply have a problem with your judgmental attitude and what I see as a misguided sense of entitlement.
Prof. Moyo, it is a fact that several African countries played a significant role in assisting South Africa during apartheid and, as such, South Africa would also be expected to help other countries during their difficult times. In my view South Africa has done a lot in accommodating migrants from within Africa and also from different conflict zones in the world. Moreover, I also think that South Africa has gone out of its way in accommodating the ‘unknown’ number of Zimbabweans who live and work in that country.
As a senior government official, I would expect you acknowledge and be grateful for this gesture. Surprisingly, your recent comments point to some misguided sense of entitlement, rather than gratefulness. This relates particularly to your comments that South Africa has an identity crisis and also when you questioned the country’s democratic ideals because of this violence. Many of your other comments are a case in point. King Zwelithini continues to say his remarks were quoted out of context but still one cannot talk about this spate of violence without mentioning his name. Because of your position, if we are to experience reprisal attacks in Zimbabwe, your name might pop up prominently as an instigator.
The xenophobic violence and subsequent loss of life is disgusting and should be condemned in the strongest terms. However, I believe that this violence should not be seen at face value or as mere hatred of foreigners, but as a culmination of various factors which range from South African socio-economic and historical factors as well as political and economic problems from other African countries, especially Zimbabwe. I would expect you to understand that the solution to this problem does not lie with South Africa alone, but also with other African countries from where the majority of the migrants originate, like Zimbabwe.Advertisement

Prof. Moyo, be reminded that there are many Zimbabweans who are living in South Africa after fleeing politically motivated violence, torture and gross human rights violations at the hands of Zanu PF. If Itai Dzamara was to be freed today by his captors (believed to be state agents) he would most probably flee to South Africa. You once mentioned that xenophobia in SA could mutate into genocide. I agree. But I have to remind you that if Tsvangirai had called on his supporters to retaliate against the Zanu PF sponsored militia in 2008, the situation could also have easily mutated into genocide.
Prof. Moyo, let me remind you that in 2008 Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the run-off election because of violence against his supporters perpetrated by Zanu PF while the police and other security forces saw no evil and heard no evil. Neither President Mugabe nor you condemned that violence. You chose to be silent then, therefore you can’t judge others now.
Prof. Moyo, be reminded that the majority of Zimbabweans living in South Africa are economic refugees who left the country for economic reasons. Sanctions or no sanctions, Zanu PF is responsible for the economic problems in Zimbabwe today. The economy is dying, companies are closing down everyday, unemployment is at alarmingly high levels and, disturbingly, Zanu PF has no plan to deal with these economic realities. All this is a result of President Mugabe and Zanu PF’s warped policies.
Prof. Moyo, don’t sulk when Zuma reminds you that Zanu PF is responsible for the influx of Zimbabweans into South Africa, albeit not in those exact words. Don’t sulk when you are reminded you are partly to blame for the xenophobic violence in South Africa through your actions or lack thereof as a senior member of the ruling party. Don’t sulk when you’re reminded that you need to fix the economy in order to prevent more Zimbabweans from seeking survival opportunities in South Africa. Don’t sulk when you are reminded of your pre-election promises that you would create 2 million jobs whereas in reality, more jobs continue to be lost. Don’t sulk when you are reminded of your responsibilities.
Let me bring it to your attention that not more than a thousand Zimbabweans returned home after being offered free transport following the xenophobic violence. Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans continue to live in fear of violence in South Africa. They would have come back home if the economic situation permitted them but the fact is that most would rather risk maneuvering their way around South Africa with the hope that they won’t fall victim to this violence, but going back home is the last thing on their minds; not under the current economic environment. In fact, all these people would not have gone to South Africa in the first place if it was not for the economic collapse at the hands of Zanu PF.
Prof. Moyo, you and your Zanu PF party need to look yourselves in the mirror before you point fingers or judge others. By virtue of being a senior government official and also being a senior Zanu PF official, you played a role in the current mess that Zimbabwe finds itself in. Instead of focusing on resuscitating the economy or developing a clear succession strategy, you focus on cheap political fights and purging of the so-called Mujuru loyalists. How on earth can Joyce Mujuru want to kill a 91-year-old man? At the same time, why would a 91-year-old man want to continue in power? You should be asking yourself these questions.
Prof. Moyo, the issues raised by President Zuma are very critical and are within his rights for that matter. If Zanu PF had not wrecked the economy, we wouldn’t be seeing 17-year-olds risking their lives by crossing the crocodile infested Limpopo River. If Zanu PF had not ruined the economy, we wouldn’t have Zimbabwean teachers, engineers, accountants and other professionals bearing the pain and humiliation they face in other countries. And as also pointed out by President Zuma, there wouldn’t be an influx of refugees from DRC, Somalia, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other parts of the world if there was political stability in those countries.
What President Zuma is saying is that, this is a deeply rooted problem and the solution involves addressing the root causes of this migration. The solution includes promotion of democracy and upholding of human rights in the countries from where the most migrants originate, including Zimbabwe. The solution includes addressing the economic problems in the countries from where the majority of migrants come, like Zimbabwe.
Prof. Moyo, South Africa has its own fair share of problems to deal with which include gross inequalities, racial discrimination, high youth unemployment, poverty as well as an apartheid inspired and racially skewed political economy. President Zuma and the South African government have been doing a lot in fighting xenophobia in recent weeks and the last thing they need is being judged, especially by people like you. I am actually surprised that your recent comments have not resulted in a diplomatic stand-off as of now. Once again, I am not trying to deny you the right to comment against xenophobia in South Africa, I only have a problem with you being a judge.
Prof. Moyo, I reckon you are a man of intellect. I therefore assume that the problem is that either you live in fear or you live in denial. I am forced to think that you live in denial, as highlighted by your futile attempts to deny that President Mugabe fell down the airport staircase in February (“The president managed to break the fall”). And considering that you are in Zanu PF, there is also a great chance in live in both fear and denial.
However, in as much as I concur with you in condemning violence by Africans on fellow Africans, I believe you are the last person to judge South Africa on how it responds to this problem. You are the last person to teach them about democratic ideals. You are the last person to teach them about use of non-violent means to address differences.
You have for a long time presided over a system that has done worse things than we are currently witnessing in South Africa. Your recent comments on xenophobia not only smack of hypocrisy, but demonstrate the extent to which you only choose to see the speck in other people’s eyes yet ignoring the log in yours.
#NoToXenophobia. We are one Africa. South Africa belongs to all those who live in it.
Katungu is an independent political thinker and social analyst. He can be contacted on or follow him on twitter @wizziekat