South Africa: The Tragedy of Xenophobia

By: 
Lekpele M. Nyamalon

Monrovia- Growing up as a kid, I remember music like ‘Free Nelson Mandela’. I remember watching movies of the black liberation struggle in South Africa, that focused on the life story of freedom fighters, Mandela, Sisulu, Tambo then Biko and his gruesome death in prison. I fondly remember the spirited movie, ‘Sarafina’ that epitomizes the struggles of black South African students and their violent confrontations with law enforcement officers who were quite brute in exerting themselves and flexing the muscles of apartheid. The tears, blood, struggles of millions of black South Africans resonated with other Africans everywhere else on the continent.

June 16, each year is celebrated as the day of the African child to herald the heroism and struggles of black South African students that got gunned down by soldiers during a demonstration in South Africa. The rest of the world stands in solidarity with South Africa to memorialize that day.

There were rallying calls to support Mandela and members of the underground chain of fighters who vowed to see apartheid disappear. My Country, Liberia hosted leaders of the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) and even Mandela occasionally found shelter in Liberia during his many years underground. Resources and African spirits were joined to restore the inalienable dignity of black South Africans.

Typical African traditions forbid one of recounting favors done to another person. But, where the beneficiary shows outright ingratitude and disdain, he is reminded of his days of anguish and all those that came to his rescue. Perhaps, it is expected to rekindle the lost memories and restore him to sanity. Such might be the case with South Africans and their anomaly zest with Xenophobia.

Today, it is a shame and a slap in the face of all those who helped South Africa overcome the scourge of apartheid. The systematic repression of blacks in South African was never justified. It was barbaric and inhumane and arose men of conscience everywhere to stand up and condemn.

Millions of South Africans underwent a mental trauma of oppression, anguish, torture, torment and suffering.  Now, the scars of apartheid are visible in extreme poverty amongst blacks, illiteracy, economic isolation, etc.

The failure of the South African society to adequately address the lost sense of hope, disillusionment, and overblown expectations of a glorious South Africa after apartheid had led to resignation to the average black South Africans that their problems are the result of the presence of foreigners in their countries. Sad!

Firebrand black South African freedom fighters have a monumental task of providing economic liberation for the citizens that have looked up to them since the end of apartheid.

The legendary global icon-Nelson Mandela gave up his life, youth, that apartheid might die. Today, South Africans can live in peace. However, today, like every society, there is still segregation everywhere in South Africa. Like Karl Marx said in the theory of Social Stratification and inequality, economic status has a way of placing people in social classes. True to the words of Marx, the average South African would remain in the townships, relegated to poverty because economic liberation is still afar.

It is incumbent upon the intellectual and black middle class, and political leaders to seek the economic upliftment of their people.

If the misgivings of xenophobia persist, the black settlement might get weary of attacking foreigners and turn on their black masters. Their frustration might spark a civil unrest that could undo all the gains against apartheid. It would further disintegrate South Africa and bring the struggle against apartheid to disrepute.

It is incumbent upon South Africans to understand that foreigners are not their problems. They might kick all the foreigners out and still have corruption, economic deprivation, illiteracy, cronyism, etc., all staring them in the face. South African Universities and civil societies should have public discourses on the role of the rest of Africa and other friendly nations in the fight against apartheid.

The South African telecommunications giant-MTN has its largest market in Nigeria with footprints in Ghana, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, etc. Could South Africa alone account for the success of MTN?

It is foolhardy for a group of Citizens to terrorize anyone other than themselves -- it’s more than xenophobia, it’s naivety.

It might further isolate South Africans and history might gradually vindicate apartheid. God forbid.

About the Author

Lekpele M. Nyamalon is a Liberian writer and poet. He can be reached at nyamalon@yahoo.com

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