The ironies of South Africa

The ironies of South Africa
  • PublishedApril 4, 2013

Despite the fact that black South Africans were welcomed everywhere else in Africa during the apartheid era,they don’t want to pay back the compliment now that the country is free.

Another African immigrant was brutally killed by the South African police on 26 February. This is the time to stop such senseless brutalities!

As if cursed by apartheid, South Africa, the country I consider the pride of Africa, seems prone to bad news. It would be easy to blame the media for picking on mainly bad stories and forgetting the great strides this country – Africa’s economic giant – lhas made since the collapse of white minority rule. It is a country with a glossy bill of rights – “to all people in our country…” – entrenched in the constitution that guarantees due process of the law, human dignity, freedoms and security of the individual.

Yet, when events like the Marikana massacre, when the police opened fire on striking mine workers in broad daylight killing 34 in just a few seconds last August, happen, it is hard to focus on the good news stories.

For instance, just as the world was preparing to move on from the shocking Marikana episode, another incident occurred, on 26 February. Allegedly for a minor traffic offence, a Mozambican taxi driver, Mido Macia, was manhandled by the police, handcuffed, tortured, cuffed to a police van, and dragged through the streets of Daveyton, east of Johannesburg, in open sight and awe of bystanders, some of whom thankfully filmed the tragic drama as it happened.

Two hours later, he was dead in a police cell, reportedly from head and internal injuries, with autopsy tests confirming the lack of oxygen.

At least for this one, eight police officers have been detained and charged with murder. Apparently the Independent Complaints Directorate of South Africa recorded 720 deaths at the hands of the police last year alone, while in this case, many people claim xenophobic tendencies – the victim being an “immigrant”. This is an irony of gross proportions.

It is an irony because the most eminent person at the memorial service in South Africa before Macia’s body was flown home to Mozambique for burial was Graca Machel, wife of the global icon Nelson Mandela and, herself, a Mozambican, whose first husband, President Samora Machel, paid for South African freedom with his life when the aircraft he was traveling in crashed en route from Lusaka (Zambia), allegedly compromised by apartheid communication signals.

On arrival in Mozambique, Macia, 27, was graced by an almost stately funeral, attended by thousands of mourners, including the country’s top liberation war hero, Marcelino dos San. Many people have accused the South African police of being xenophobic and humiliating immigrants from neighbouring countries, most of which constituted the “Front Line States” against apartheid. As if fated, Macia’s funeral took place at a primary school compound named after Nelson Mandela in Matola town, near Maputo!

The question of justice, contradictions and hypocrisy involving African victims is best manifested in South Africa these days. When then-popular sports star, Oscar Pistorious, shot dead his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day, his father pleaded that the ANC government was to blame for his son’s love of guns and triggers, because the ANC had failed to protect Pistorius and his family from criminals. In the South African parody show, Late Nite News with Loyiso Gola, they called it “denial in a box”.

To the show, the South African police urgently need training in “anger management”. For some of us, South Africa is too important to disappoint. As distant observers – whatever the missing link, I pray it is sorted out soon – I know South Africa is possible.

Written By
Joseph Ochieno

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