The rise of xenophobia with violence is a disaster for South Africa’s aspirations in Africa.
Many reasons have been advanced for this unexpected explosion and no doubt many socioeconomic factors are at play.
But what stands out for me is the intense hatred for Africa’s immigrants and refugees as evidenced by the extreme violence. This is no mere prejudice against people of different origin and culture, it is naked mass hostility.
Is the basis for all this competition between spaza shops or employment displacement? Maybe, but there may be more to it. We recall how Thabo Mbeki’s call for Africa’s Renaissance and NEPAD was so warmly welcomed a decade ago. Parliament had some highly appreciative debates and MP’s proudly affirmed their African identity by wearing Nigerian and Tanzanian shirts and gowns to demonstrate their belonging to Africa.
That mood has passed and now we seemed to be focused on military intervention and the pursuit of business opportunities by our large chain stores and banks. There is a danger that all this may be rolled back.
The fact is that South Africa’s involvement in the affairs of the continent have become too obviously instrumental. We do not proclaim our love and commitment to the continent and its peoples.
And so there has grown a gradual distrust and dislike within South Africa and this may spread across the continent.
This would be a great dis appointment for me personally as I have gained so much in the many years I spent in various African countries teaching and attending seminars at many universities. My Institute was founded as a Pan African institution with Board members from across Africa.
I urge the ANC and the government to demonstrate by public actions that we are an integral part of Africa, dedicated to its upliftment. Sanctimonious declarations are not enough.
Prof Ben Turok
Institute For African Alternatives (IFAA)