Unproud South African (xenophobia)

The last few days have brought many of us who live in the geographic-political entity called South Africa face to face with just how bad xenophobia is in this country whose complexity can give us a massive headache. I must admit to a near emotional and intellectual shut down from the horror we have experienced over the last week. It is at once difficult and easy to make sense of how people can mete out such brutality to other people living with and near them.

I am not usually a romantic — at least not when it comes to public political concerns. However, I am deeply depressed and almost passified by the brutality we have all been made witness to. I want to feel angry and driven to clear, inspired action. But I have not been able to feel more than deeply saddened and overwhelmed by the cruelty of my country folk. I am frightened not just by the large scale murders, but for the manner of these killings. I am nauseated by the knowledge that people I share citizenship and history with laugh while a human being burns to death. How can a person’s life mean so little just because they are not South African?

In many respects we should not be overly surprised by the events over the weekend that threaten to continue in Gauteng, the province I have grown to love with a difficult passion over the last few years for its unpredictability. Indeed, when unnamed South Africans were attacking people from Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and other places in other provinces those of us who are freedom loving should have all acted much quicker and more definitively. We should have done more than express condemnation for xenophobia from our comfortable spaces. We should have been compelled to do more to distance ourselves and to teach those we come into contact with.

But we did not.

We should have been more vocal than we were when it became increasingly widespread to call other Africans “amakwerekwere”. And when the president we voted into power started repeating himself on how there is no crisis of crime in this country, we should have challenged him more loudly. Not in the opportunistic way that many in his party now try to score points with the voting masses. And not in the pointless bemoaning of crime that simply repeats itself either.

As a political sister and comrade of mine pointed out today, what we should have done is to pay attention to the specific forms that crime takes and taken heed. But we did not.

So now, in typical South African fashion, we are condemn what unfolds in our midst, call it criminal (as if that does anything), admit to shock and speak of a third force and other conspiracies. How can we be shocked when there were so many signs that we were headed to this horrible place?

I continue to search for more productive and impactful ways to act this time.


Posted on 20 May 2008, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Dear Loudrastrass

    I’m a journalist at France24 for the site http://observers.france24.com. I came across your blog looking for interesting persepectives on current events in SA. I’d be really interested in talking to you, and not just for this post but future happenings too (especially feminism!) Could i give you a call?

    Sophie Pilgrim

  2. Dear Pumla
    Thank you for your blog, which I came to because it helped me articulate anger, shock and the recognition of my own implication in this horror. I did not speak loudly enough before, and the connections are clear. Anything that makes it okay to hurt someone because they are foreign, makes it okay to hurt someone for any difference, for any reason. No. And not in my name. I am not policing borders drawn in colonial wars between me and her, between me and him. The connection between us keeps all of us alive. Thank you.

  3. Hi Pumla, thanks for the word assembled here. What is happening in South Africa today does not surprise me at all, It is because of the culture of nationalism created by the former Nazis and now rubbed in by the current black government, futhermore, we emphasise the “South” of our being African, through being proudly South… as opposed to just being proudly African. And then, as if that werent enough, we look at fellow Africans as “foreign” and fellow human beings as “foreign,” i mean what is so foreign about a Chinese woman, except the fact that she has the features she has and speaks a different language, but she too was born on earth. Anyway, maybe i’m not on level with the rest of the world. On the other hand, these xenophobic attacks around South Africa, happen parallel to the political violence in Italy against immigrants, particularly those from Romania and Islamic countries. Now in the world, looking black, and or North African is reason for the policeman to stop you for documents. Right here in a country where the inhabitants themselves look North African. Napoli is the poorest city in Italy, Ivory Park and Alexandra are also among the poorest in the history of South Africa, and to see poor people fighting for bread and breath is inevitable within the capitalist market world government has now become.

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