No more brothers: “Afrophobia” in South Africa

After a declaration released by the Zulu King, the country is experiencing new xenophobic attacks against its “foreign nationals”

IMMIGRATION-SOUTH-AFRICA-BLOG26“Foreigners must pack their bags and go home”. These words have been pronounced by Goodwill Zwelithini, King of the South African Zulu tribe, during a speech held in March. According to the King, these people (around 4% of the population) would be enjoying wealth that should have been for local people as well as changing the nature of South African society. Such few words have been enough to be followed by new bloody xenophobic episodes explode all over South Africa. How has it been possible?

Although South Africa is a republic, its constitution provides a “Traditional Leadership Clause”, under which the Zulu tribecan benefit from a “non-sovereign monarchy” whose temporal power is totally subject to the one held by the Government. Therefore, despite Zwelithini’s power can be defined as merely representative, he exercises a great charismatic influenceone of the largest communities in South Africa and beyond. For these reasons, his words should have been carefully batched if referred to such a “dangerous” topic that, as President Jacob Zuma stated, does not involve just the foreigners: “We have a history that these things happen even among ourselves. There was political violence here which nobody has forgotten about”.

Indeed the memory of Apartheid and the rapid economic progress have inevitably created socio-economic inequality and consequently racism and intolerance, throwing the country into an identity crisis whose end is further than ever. And now it seems that Zwelithini’s position has sounded sharp enough to give the nationalists a vague political approval, with the result of turning twenty years of periodic violence into a proper civil war. And although the Zulu King swore he has been misquoted by the local media (“If it were true […] this country would be up in flames” he said), the social situation is now developing towards unpredictable perspectives.

Pretoria, Durban and Johannesburg, mostly,have seen xenophobic demonstrations increase dramatically in one month. Destructive attacks towards shops run by “foreign nationals” multiplied, all accused to contribute to the high unemployment suffered by South Africans (the official government rate is estimated around 25%) and neither individual civilians are safe from such brutality. Lately all Africa has got shocked by seven pictures taken by a “Sunday times” photographer in Alexandra (north of Johannesburg) portraying a street vendor from Mozambique being surrounded by four men and then stabbed to death.

The current budget of this xenophobic wave counts at least 7 murders, more than 70 arrested and 5,000 homeless resulting in a further isolation of the country within all Africa. Now spread anger and sadness are actually strengthening the sense of brotherhood which gatherst he Dark Continent, resulting in pacific anti-xenophobia protests in countries like Mozambique, Ethiopia and South Africa itself. However the army raids employed by the Defence Minister Mapisa-Nqakula as a deterrent for violence are demonstrating how today South Africa is a “no man’s land” where history has not left its mark on people’s mind and actions and where it actually needs to be rebuilt, every time, all over again.

Walter Morana

Pubblicato il 30 aprile 2015

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