It does seem there’s a trait for barbarism in black Africans (sincere apologies to every civilized black African). But if one looks across Africa, one can’t help but have that feeling.
That is why I totally condemn the barbarism exemplified by the Xenophobic attacks perpetrated by our brother black South Africans (mostly on fellow black Africans from other African nations), much in the same way I condemn the intra and inter-tribal barbarism that is rampant at home here in Nigeria as well as the accompanying looting and burning of some South African business interests in Nigeria by some unscrupulous elements.
This is also why I do not subscribe to certain narratives being thrown around about these xenophobic attacks. I have read some narratives attempting to tie the recurrent xenophobic attacks in South Africa to illicit drugs business. I totally disagree with these narratives because there’s nothing that will justify such barbaric acts against fellow humans, not to talk of fellow Black Africans.
Not that there are no drug dealers or that our citizens in SA don’t engage in those but throwing such in at this particular time is akin to somehow justifying the attacks. That is totally unacceptable. In the end, there are more law abiding and responsible Nigerians doing legitimate business in South Africa and around the world.
There are appropriate ways to address illegal and criminal behavior in a civilized society in the 21st Century and certainly people taking the law into their hands, hacking down and setting humans and businesses ablaze are not one of them.
That this is happening in South Africa either means a failure of the South African security and justice system or that the South African government is complicit or at least negligent or a combination of both.
Over and above all, it all feeds into my earlier position on barbarism and the black African. That we settle scores through the most primitive and barbaric of approaches at the least provocation with zero regard for the rule of law and authority only attest to that. Whether it is in gleefully setting petty thieves ablaze on the streets, parading a woman naked on the streets for stealing a fowl to feed her hungry children, killing people accused of witchcraft, hacking people to death with machetes without batting an eyelid, setting an entire community ablaze and killing tens and hundreds in attacks and reprisal attacks, kidnapping and ambushing travellers/strangers for money or worse still murdering them and barbecuing their bodies to ‘savor’ with burukutu etc, we exhibit unimaginable and troubling capacity for barbarism. And these go beyond South Africa. Even at home here in Nigeria. There’s no better time to highlight these than in the present circumstance.
I once did a diagnosis of the anger and rage still inherent in the average black South African, decades after the end of Apartheid and the advent of black majority rule. My finding was that even though Apartheid might have long ended, the deep suspicion, anger and bitterness embedded in the hearts and minds of Black South Africans from dealing with white supremacists during the apartheid era remain very potent.
One of the dangers of conflict is that seeds of hatred and bitterness are sown in the hearts and minds of people. That hate, bitterness and anger are usually justified because they are channeled towards a ‘legitimate’ enemy to achieve a legitimate cause. However except extra effort is made to re-orient, purge and cleanse the minds of hate and bitterness after the conflict is over and the enemy is no more, a new enemy (real or imagined) is created or identified on whom the acquired and bottled up hatred, anger and bitterness would be unleashed. This is exactly the case in South Africa. In many ways Black South Africans have also become a victim of their past. Rather unfortunate one might add.
The new ‘enemy’ that has replaced the white supremacists apparently are fellow black Africans from other African nations whom they perceive are taking what should rightly belong to them alone. They don’t see them as contributing to their national growth and GDP. Rather they see them as leeches, usurpers and enemies who are taking what is their’s, just like the whites back in the days. Never mind that most of their problems lie in their own laziness and inability to identify and exploit numerous opportunities that are available to them as citizens of their nation.
This is one of the reasons we should be very worried about the rising incubation and entrenchment of hate and bitterness amongst our own citizens in our own dear nation Nigeria.
Today we see a doubling down on hatred, bigotry and bitterness amongst us. Clan against clan, village against village, state against state, zone against zone, tribe against tribe, religion against religion etc. We might think our case is different but not at all. The evolution and psychology of hate and bitterness as I described earlier is preety much the same. They follow the same pattern and the end result is always the same or similar. That is why it’s always better to control or totally prevent those seeds from being sown in the first place because like the jeenie, once it’s let out of the bottle, it’s very difficult to call back.
I read some Nigerians reminding us of all Nigeria and Nigerians did in support of the Anti-apartheid struggle. But have we pondered how many of the South African youths born after the end of Apartheid (who are in the active majority) remember these sacrifices made by Nigeria and other African nations?
How much does their history teach and remind them of these sacrifices? So how much impact will such reminisces have since people cannot act on what they don’t know about?
I like bringing these things home so we can learn from other’s mistakes. As it is said, it’s not until something happens to one that one can learn. Once can also learn from other people’s experience.
There is an urgent need beyond the diplomatic efforts for the South African government to urgently and deliberately orient and re-orient its citizenry, especially the majority black South Africans and the youths to change their mindset and realize that their actions of today will have destructive consequences on them and their nation in the furture.
More importantly, back home in Nigeria, I reiterate my call for a reinvigorated and urgent national values and ethics orientation and re-orientation. This is very vital if we are not to lose an entire generation of our own youths and suffer the dire consequences of hatred and bitterness already sown in the hearts and minds of our young people who have neither a sense of history nor know our true history.
Xenophobia is not unique to South Africa and South Africans. It’s also in us.