The horror, the terror and trauma will not be obliterated in a jiffy. Though the wounds may heal with time, the scars of losses irreplaceable will endure for eternity. The words of Femi Kuti, progeny of the great black prophet, echoed in my soul as I read and watched the destruction that ran amok in broad daylight in South Africa or SA as it is fondly called by my countrymen. ‘Africa should take care of Africa,’ Femi Kuti had said but how depressing is it that black is cannibalising on black?
When the oyinbo raided our homes, took away our virgins as whores, turned our men into oxen for ploughing plantations while relishing themselves on the fattest of our cows, we christened it white man’s inhumanity to the man of colour. In the same SA, centuries ago, men of valour and character, men with an inexplicable level of bravery, comrades as we later came to know them, took a stand and fought for freedom. One of such, never to be forgotten by this generation, generations gone by and even posterity was the great Tata Madiba. Nelson Mandela fought the good fight; he finished the race and wrote his name on the hearts of men gaining immortality. The apartheid war, the fight for freedom from the white man’s oppression was achieved in brotherhood and unison of the coloured.
Nigeria didn’t look away or forsake its black brethren in the time of oppression. We lent them a helping hand. Countless clandestine meetings of black comrades took place in the heart of this nation. When they needed asylum, we granted them. When they needed to disappear, we gave them invisibility cloaks. Such was the kindred spirit that cemented us. Such was the power of coloured brotherhood. Such was the solidarity Madiba nurtured till full bloom. Surely, he will turn in his grave when he hears these tidings of doom. For how do we explain this situation of chicks feeding on the mother? Without a tinge of wavering, Madiba will roll over and over when his immortal antenna picks on this bit of information; brothers, kinsmen feeding on each others’ flesh!
How does one begin to explain this cruel spate of black inhumanity to black? The oyinbo created the word ‘xenophobia’ but sadly, we are demonstrating the madness the word connotes by dignifying their christening of an act so obnoxious. This is an eye sore! The oyinbo define this fiendish barbarism as an unreasoned fear of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange. They say it can manifest itself in the relations and perceptions of an in-group towards an out-group. Sometimes, these fears translate into suspicion, aggression and a burning desire to eliminate the presence of the subject in a bid to secure a presumed form of purity.
South Africa has had a history of immigrant discrimination prior to democratisation and as a matter of fact after. One would imagine that the reason for this fierce hate against foreigners was due to the oppression the natives suffered at the hands of the oyinbo but this blatant detestation for all that is foreign didn’t stop even after democratisation in 1994; contrary to general expectations, xenophobia sky rocketed in South Africa. A recent study based on a citizen survey across member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) found South Africans expressing the harshest anti-foreigner sentiment, with 21 per cent of South Africans in favour of a complete ban on entry by foreigners and 64 per cent in favour of strict limitations on the numbers allowed!
You should find this exposé on xenophobic attacks in SA in the last one decade paralysing. In 2000, seven foreigners were killed on the Cape Flats over a five-week period. In October 2001 residents of the Zandspruit informal settlement gave Zimbabweans 10 days to leave the area. When the foreigners failed to leave voluntarily, they were forcefully evicted. In the last week of 2005 and first week of 2006, at least four people died in the Olievenhoutbosch settlement after foreigners were blamed for the death of a local man.
Attacks on foreign nationals increased markedly in late 2007 and it is believed that there were at least a dozen attacks between January and May 2008. On 12 May, 2008 a series of riots started in the township of Alexandra (in the north-eastern part of Johannesburg) killing two people and injuring 40 others. In the following weeks, the violence spread, first to other settlements in the Gauteng Province, then to the coastal cities of Durban and Cape Town.
In late May 2009, reports emerged regarding a possible resurgence of xenophobic related activity and the plotting of attacks in the Western Cape. In 2010, the press carried numerous articles claiming that there would be massive planned xenophobic violence at the end of the 2010 Football World Cup. Thankfully, this did not happen. However, in July 2012 there were new attacks in parts of Cape Town and in Botshabelo in the Free State but on 30 May 2013, 25-year-old Abdi Nasir Mahmoud was stoned to death. Sadly, the raging storms of these obnoxious attacks are yet to be stilled as there were attacks in 2015 and we are still witnessing xenophobic attacks in 2017.
A fresh tide of anarchy took Pretoria over just last week. The Nigerian Union South Africa (NUSA) on Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, confirmed that Nigerian homes and businesses in Pretoria West had been attacked in several late-night incidents in recent days. Emeka Ezinteje Collins, national public relations officer of NUSA, told Al Jazeera this: “Our people and other foreigners are apparently living in fear of the unknown as the hoodlums have promised more attacks.”
In the face of such great animosity, hostility and bitterness, Nigerians in SA have remained like the foot of the Himalaya, shouldn’t we ask ourselves why? Even an oaf will without hesitations tell you that our countrymen and brothers are sitting in the jaws of death because of the epidemic of hardship in our nation. In search of the proverbial greener pastures, they have migrated to foreign lands and are treated like scum. We should weep in unison and lament without any restrictions that our youth, the future of our nation, have chosen death in an alien land over the epic dysfunctionality within our shores. Don’t all of these vehemently contradict the veracity of the phrase “there is no place like home?”