Xenophobia, or rather, Afrophobia
Dumelang, batho ba Afrika-Borwa.
Ndewo, ndi South Africa.
Hello, people of South Africa.
I remember when I went to the theater to watch Black Panther for the first time, I absolutely loved it. However, what I loved the most wasn’t the movie, which was excellent, but rather seeing Africans, of different nationalities, come to the theater dressed in their traditional attires, to watch Black Panther. I remember everyone in their traditional outfits scream jointly “Wakanda Forever” in the theater. That was truly special for me.
It is hard for me not to be biased when speaking out about the xenophobic attacks taking place in South Africa. As a Nigerian Girl that has had many encounters with xenophobic comments and passive aggressive attacks in my everyday school life, and particularly by people in positions of authority, I am angered by the events that have taken place and I wonder why there has been no introspection regarding this recurring problem. (You can read more in The Nigeria Girl article) Currently, a good number of foreigners hide in their homes for fear of being the next victims.
There have been a wave of xenophobic attacks across South Africa that have left many wounded or dead. The source of these xenophobic attacks is unknown, however, the destruction is serious.
The sheer barbarity and callousness of the perpetrators must be a cause for concern, as reports of women having their children being thrown into fires, men and women being killed as a result of their nationality, shops being looted and destroyed, houses being burnt and people being attacked with machetes has not even been reported as graphically in mainstream media. Artists, especially from countries that have experienced xenophobic attacks, have taken to the media to express their anger at the disregard for the lives and the reckless damage and theft of the property of these foreigners. Anger has also been directed at the police force whom many suspect are complicit in these attacks.
Celebrities such as Burnaboy, stefflon London, Davido, Tiwa Savage and many more, have called SA out on the recurring violence against other nationalities. Additionally, Julius Malema has spoken out against the xenophobic attacks. Several Presidents canceled their attendance of the World Economic Forum and some countries have severed specific economic or political activities with South Africa as a form of rebuke for failing to do more to curb xenophobia or rather Afrophobia. Equally condemnable are reprisal attacks on South African owned businesses across the continent.
Although these attacks are very graphic and repulsive, less talked about are the daily occurrences of xenophobia within cities in South Africa. When I was a child, I was constantly made fun of (by teachers and students) because of my accent and my nationality. I became used to sitting alone at break because I felt I was weird, or strange and always tried to distance myself from my identity because of the incessant attacks. The first time I was told I was a failure, was by one of the teachers in junior school (Grade 6) who assumed that I wouldn’t accomplish much because I was a foreign black. When I entered senior school, I was a victim of Afrophobia, by my peers, but also mostly, from figures of authority. I was told several times to go back to my country and that I was a failure. I was also told repeatedly that I was not going to succeed or that I should be deported. I had so many fights to ward off xenophobia. I had serious debates in my classes regarding this morbid hatred of other Africans. Unfortunately, several of my peers brushed aside the issue to the consternation of all the foreign Africans in the class. What was perplexing is that this same hatred was never directed at foreign students who were European or Asian. It was reserved strictly for other Africans. In many of these instances, all I could do was cry and speak to my friends or parents. However, at some point, I decided that I had had enough. That is why I created Teen Tate. The website that you are on right now.
There are only so many words that I can type, so many words that I can say to try and convince people to take action. At the end of the day, this could just be another article that passes by and is quickly forgotten. At the end of the day, this could just be another ‘complaint’ that you have heard all too often. But, at the end of the day, this issue will just keep snowballing until it consumes all. Africa is one. We make Africa. We help each other because that is what Africans do. Africans stand for one another not attack. When South Africa experienced apartheid, many countries rallied round to help out. Nigeria for example, contributed $61 billion and issued free passports to South African citizens to help them escape apartheid. Nigeria also offered free tuition and accommodation for all South African victims of apartheid. Civil servants were also made to contribute a portion of their salary towards the cause. The great Nelson Mandela hid in Nigeria for 6 months during apartheid and so did President Thabo Mbeki. This is from Nigeria alone. Imagine the contributions that many other African countries made to help our brothers and sisters in need. Do not forget. It is sometimes easy to forget when people want to forget, but hard to remember when people do not want to remember.
South Africa is a beautiful, amazing, industrialized country that is at a crossroads. It faces two very serious issues at the moment that threaten that greatness: Xenophobia and Femicide. The questions we all must ask ourselves is, what are we going to do about it?
As a Christian girl, I am fond of the scripture that says ‘One can chase a thousand, two can chase ten thousand’. What can an entire country do? Make the world shake. Let us do what is right and stand for those that cannot speak for themselves. Let us be the change. Let us educate ourselves and contribute solutions. This is an awakening. A call for action. Let us be THAT Generation. The generation that stood for what is right, not the one that stood by the sidelines. Let us actively discuss and become the change makers we so badly want in our society.
My condolences go out to all who have lost family members, friends or acquaintances to Xenophobia and Femicide. My hearts are with you all.
Teen Tate AFRICA