EDITORIAL COMMENT: South Africans must rise above xenophobia

Xenophobia attacks targeting Zimbabweans and other nationals that resurfaced in Durban, KwaZulu Natal and some parts of the Limpopo Province in South Africa are very unfortunate and should be strongly condemned.

According to reports, a Zimbabwean truck driver is battling for his life at a hospital in Durban, while more than 100 foreigners among them Zimbabweans were forced to flee and seek refuge at a police station as xenophobic attacks rear their ugly head once again in South Africa.

The attacks come hardly a fortnight after South Africa and Zimbabwe appended their signatures to Zimbabwe-South African Bi-National Commission in Harare.

During the commission, Zimbabwe and South Africa signed 45 deals covering various sectors of their economies ranging from mining, trade, railways to air transport, a progressive development hinged on further strengthening relations between the two countries.

Sadly, the xenophobic attacks are taking place before the ink has hardly dried. The attacks should be strongly condemned considering the historical, political, social and economic ties between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Besides their geographic proximity, South Africa and Zimbabwe have a common and long history of regional affiliation and cultural ties. The people of Zimbabwe played an important historical role in support of the liberation struggle in South Africa against the system of apartheid.

The brotherhood between the two even saw the African National Congress opening an office in Harare at the height of apartheid in South Africa. Evident of the risk associated with such decision, Zimbabwe, being thy brother’s keeper, gave ANC a home and relentlessly ensured that its brother was comfortable throughout.

Even the bombing of ANC offices in Harare, which posed serious danger to Zimbabwean people, did not deter Zimbabwe from reaching out to a brother in need of help.

It is the same brotherhood that saw thousands of Zimbabweans trekking down south — among other nationalities — to work as labourers in plantation and in gold and diamond mines during the infamous Wenela period.

These compelling relations between the two have also cascaded to the economic front, where Zimbabwe is South Africa’s biggest trading partner. Business is quite huge between the two that $5 billion exchanges hands between South Africa and Zimbabwe annually, making Beitbridge Border Post the busiest port of entry on the continent.

Inter-marriages and cultural exchanges across the border between South Africans and Zimbabweans are a common feature and they continue to flourish as nationalities from both countries regularly interact.

All these ties cannot be wished away overnight. It therefore defies the logic why some South African nationals should decide to perpetrate violence against their own.

Zimbabwe and South Africa are one people divided by a river, a merely physical feature which should not strain relations to the point of spilling blood. Naturally we are all greatly disturbed and hurt by the senseless violence in South Africa and call on South Africa to bring to book the perpetrators of such heinous acts.

We therefore call for immediate cessation of these xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals to avoid loss of life reminiscent of the 2014 attacks where several people died.

If anything, the continued attacks makes a mockery of SADC’s efforts to unite the region.

While they have been dissenting views from some sections of people in South Africa, we feel that the act of treating other Africans in that horrible way cannot be condoned by anyone, and should be dealt with forthwith, to protect the dignity of the region.

South Africa should stand against such behaviour and must speak out and act against this tragedy of indescribable proportions that is unveiling before the whole continent.

A thorough investigation of this issue will enable South Africa to flush out criminal elements, who may actually be instigating these attacks against defenceless people to perpetuate criminal acts.

We believe that not all South Africans are angry, violent and xenophobic. The few that seem to agitate for violence against foreigners would need to be schooled how other African countries contributed to South Africa’s economic growth and its fight against apartheid.

Beyond the economics and politics of the day, they also need to appreciate the ties that bind us as Africans. We share Ubuntu, the land, our diverse cultures and a beautiful history of unshackling ourselves from the yoke of the colonisers.

Having come that far as one people, we surely can rise above xenophobia.

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