Xenophobia is a step towards reviving tribalism, another disease that was used to divide Africans by the enemies of Africa.
When what many are calling “xenophobia” erupted in South Africa in May 2008, as a Member of the South African Parliament, I proposed the following motion:
Madam Speaker, I move without notice that this House:
• Notes with deep concern, the violence that is perpetrated by our people against other Africans from other parts of Africa, namely from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe;
• Speedily send some Members of Parliament to the affected areas to observe this problem on the spot and to speak both to the citizens of our country and those refugees and others who have been victimised;
• [Notes] that the House is disturbed about the alleged xenophobia that tarnishes the image of our country internationally, and by the harm this ill-treatment of our brothers and sisters does to the vision of Pan-Africanism and the work of the African Union;
• Appeals for thorough investigation as to the real causes of this savage violence and the solution thereof to avoid repetition of same.
Parliament, under Speaker Baleka Mbete, adopted this motion and agreed to visit the people affected. I was one of the Members of Parliament who met the victims of violence from outside South Africa. Sixty-seven people were reportedly killed, of which 21 were South Africans. Some weeks later, I again spoke on the issue of xenophobia in parliament, stating:
“One of the slogans of the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) besides Izwe Lethu (the Land is Ours), is Africa for Africans, Africans for humanity, humanity for God. The hymn by Enoch Sontonga says Nkosi Sikelela iAfrika (God Bless Afrika). The African National Congress (ANC) has used it as the anthem since 1925 and today, it forms part of the new South Africa’s national anthem. And one of our popular liberation songs is Morena Boloka Sechaba sa Afrika (God Protect the Nation of Afrika).”
No more name-calling
These songs were composed with the reality in mind that Africa is one, from Cape to Cairo, Madagascar to Morocco. It has always been one from the time it was called Al-Kebulan or “Mother of Nations’’ or “The Land of Ham”.
In our country, derogatory terms such as Kaffir are a taboo. Equally our country must put words such as makwerekwere, matswantle etc. in the same category as Kaffir. Fifty-three African countries belong to the African Union. They have the Pan-African Parliament. They all agreed to form the OAU to liberate Africa, including liberating South Africa. They own Africa and its riches collectively. A proper terminology must be found for Africans from outside South Africa. They are not “foreigners”. They can’t be Africans and foreigners at the same time.
As Africans we have a common destiny. When we were enslaved or colonised, the authors of those barbaric acts did not ask whether you were a Nigerian, a Zimbabwean, Azanian or South African. They inflicted their atrocities and genocide on every African, whether in Africa, Jamaica or America.
These are the words I told Parliament then. I could not say more. I was only allowed two minutes to speak.
Now, in April 2015 our people from outside South Africa are again living in fear. Afrophobia has reared its head again in South Africa. In my view this is not “xenophobia”. In English this word that is borrowed from Greek means “fear or dislike of strangers or foreigners.” In the espoused African spirit of Ubuntu and Pan-Africanism, there is no African who can be a “foreigner in Africa” while non-Africans who live here are not considered as foreigners. It is a contradiction in terms, to be an African and a “foreigner” at the same time.
What is called “xenophobia” in South Africa is brother hating or disliking brother. This signals that the colonial mentality is too deep-seated in this country, if this is not the work of hooligans or a “third force” to derail the Pan-African agenda, which fathers of the liberation struggle in Africa such as Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Touré, Julius Nyerere, Robert Sobukwe, Patrice Lumumba, Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Du Bois, George Padmore, Malcolm X and many more embraced.
Bring Africans closer
The ANC government must investigate and solve once and for all, this dangerous lunacy of Afrophobia before it kills the whole of Africa.
This is why it is also important that 25 May be made a special day on which all Africans, no matter where they are or come from, must sit and reflect on the history of slavery, colonialism and racism and how as a united people, that was overcome. They must know where Africa is at present and where Africa must be tomorrow for the benefit of all the people of Africa.
It is a shame that in many African countries including South Africa, 25 May – African Liberation day – is considered nothing special, while some colonial holidays are still celebrated with glory. This is the day 25 Africans should get together, know one another better as brothers and sisters as well as educate each other about their continent and how to move it forward for generations of Africans to come.
Simple yet important moves, such as stopping lumping visiting Africans at airports in queues marked “foreigners”, are vital to helping bring Africans closer. Ordinary Africans must also understand the importance of the Pan-African agenda and vision. It must be evident to them that the African Union is there for their benefit, not that of their leader.
Let all Africa at home and abroad be reminded of the words of that great Nigerian leader, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, when he said:
“As itself the cradle [of Western European Civilisation], this Continent [Africa] has had the bad luck of being over-run by [European] soldiers of fortune who had neither [the moral] fibre or humanity… slavery played its shameful role in depopulating Africa. Capitalism denuded [Africa] of its wealth. Colonialism deprived Africa of its birthright and imperialism emasculated Africa of its will to live as human beings and enjoy its fair share of bounties of the earth.”
All obstacles therefore, that make us as Africans lose our Pan-African focus must be removed. Afrophobia is one of them. Africans are sailing in one ship. If it sails across the stormy sea we shall be safe. If it sinks, we shall all sink and lose our Africa again to the real foreigners. They are sworn enemies of the Pan-African vision and agenda. They work day and night to bury it. Afrophobia serves their vile schemes. Africans – as one – we must all be vigilant and against such schemes. NA
Dr Motsoko Pheko is the author of several books including Africa In 5o Years.