When Mandela became the first black South African President, after a protracted struggle with the Apartheid government, many people thought that a new dawn of peace in Africa has been born. In Europe, he was perceived as an icon of rebirth of peace to all the world. He also emerged as one of the great humanist that Africa has ever produced, following the steps of other humanist like KK of Zambia and Julius Nyerere, just to name a few of them. Most of these humanist were conceived of the philosophy that ‘all humans are equal, despite their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion and /or political affiliation ‘.Madiba was an “EGALITARIAN”.
Thus he condemned xenophobia, racism and discrimination against others in anyway. He, [ Mandela] advocated for the eradication of all these including any other discrepancies or disparities that were a brainchild of the former colonisers. As he had promised peace prior to independence, during his reign, Mandela fulfilled his promises by following the pattern of all independent sovereign states in Africa, who upon attaining independence unleashed the policy of ‘RECONCILIATION’. One ultimate aim of Madiba was to propagate the idea of solidarity in SA. Unlike Stalin and Hitler he did no carry out any purges among the former colonisers who had been so callous or diabolical to him, by putting him in prison for twenty-seven years. The other issue akin to this, pertaining to the present unpalatable state of affairs in SA, was the introduction of an ‘Amnesty policy’.
This was to give all illegal foreigners in SA the right to live and work in SA. This ‘holy policy’ was to pave way for autonomy of foreigners to move freely in SA without being harassed by the police and it also gave them the right to access all public services rendered to the indigenous people of SA. Thus the policy of ill-treating foreigners by the police in SA was alleviated, as many foreigners were now living legally in SA. History has it that, prior to this, there had been ugly scenarios which had bedevilled SA . This among other forms of ill-treatment included the setting of dogs to foreigners when they were trying to escape police arrest. This was a dehumanising act, as human dignity is inviolable. After being arrested, many foreigners were sent to Lindela, where upon they awaited deportation or were deported to their respective countries. Some died because the conditions by then were not conducive , particularly to those who were sick. The appalling conditions were, however, improved after many complaints by other African countries and human rights organisations.
As is demonstrated above, it is surprising and ludicrous indeed, for people in SA to engage in Xenophobic attacks, contrary to what Mandela has achieved and has envisaged seeing taking place. Mandela’s wish was to see what he dubbed ‘the Renaissance of Africa’. How is this going to unfold and take place in Africa when Xenophobia is polarising the African people. This new paradigm or mindset among the people of SA is surely incompatible with Madiba’s maxim of ‘THE RENAISSANCE OF AFRICA ’ (rebirth of Africa).In order to fulfill his wishes, people should emulate him by living together in peace.
There should be solidarity among all people, just as there was solidarity during the world cup in SA in 2010. We all owe a’ duty of care’ to our neighbours, even Jesus Christ told the story of the’ Good Samaritan’, as a way of teaching people to love one another. Yes! SA is bedevilled by a plethora of social and economic problems, but that surely is not caused by foreigners. People have been living in ‘Umkhukhus’[shanty buildings] for many years and that is an order which was created by the former colonisers, but not other Africans nor any other black foreigners from abroad. It is not violence that can resolve the current economic and social dilemma that SA people are wallowing in, but rather peaceful ways can be employed as advocated by Madiba. The other point that people should note is that the current state of affairs, of attacking foreigners in SA, does not only destroy the hard work of Madiba, but it transcends to other countries abroad.
This will push other countries abroad to disdain people from SA, as an act of parallel behaviour. There are many SA nationals living and working abroad, so there is that possibility that they will be perceived as very selfish, and aggressive people. The Bible states it clearly, that,’ the same measure that you use against others shall be used against you’. The people of SA should know that the movement or migration of people in particular in Southern Africa has always been a common practice from time immemorial. This dates back to the time of ‘WANELA’, whereby labour for mines was recruited from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi. This used to extend as far as the eye can see, for example, as far as DRC and Tanzania. This was the case up to the time when SA attained its independence. During the time when labourers were recruited from neighbouring countries, no one attacked foreigners in SA. The indigenous people perceived them as their brothers.
The migration in discussion did not only take place to SA only. While Zimbabweans migrated to SA, some people from Zimbabwe’s neighbouring countries moved to Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe, millions of Zambians, Mozambiqueans and Malawians great tracked to Zimbabwe to work in the Rhodesian Railways, industries and farms. This also included South Africans as Zimbabwe was the basket of Africa by then. Again, during this period, there was no Xenophobia noted.
Today there are millions of foreigners from neighbouring countries who live in Zimbabwe, they have been assimilated through intermarriage or incorporated into those people. They have not been discriminated against nor belittled and they remain unscathed in as far as the demon of Xenophobia is concerned. I give credit to the people of Zimbabwe for their hospitality and humility. Even the former colonisers, during the Rhodesian era, did not shun foreigners in preference of their indigenous subjects.
Last but not least, Africa has got to emulate Europe on the ‘FREE MOVEMENT OF PEOPLE POLICY’, whereby people who are nationals of other European countries have the right to work, live, study and access all the services rendered to the public, of that particular host European country. In as far as this is concerned in Africa, we give credit to President Zuma for scrapping the visa system which has been a residue of the apartheid era. Now people from neighbouring countries to SA can travel to SA without any visa. This is a step in the right direction for uniting Africa, as this has made mobility of people in Southern Africa easier. The SA government should not condone XENOPHOBIA.