The South African Indolence and Ingratitude
The current wave of attacks or xenophobia against foreigners especially of the Nigerian hue is very unfortunate and pitiable. It is unfortunate because it is a clear testimony of South Africans and their government show of ingratitude to those who helped them in dismantling of apartheid and currently helping them to develop their economy. Despite the denial of the government, it is very obvious that there is an official endorsement of the protest as a way of diverting the attention of the South Africans from the source of their problems- incompetent and corrupt government. I will justify this stand in later part of this piece.
It is indolence because the apartheid systems had entrenched the culture of laziness on the part of the people and the average South African believes that the government should cook food for him. It was Robert Mugabe (God bless his soul) who said that the illiterate South African believes that the educated doctor from other parts of Africa is responsible for his poverty. It is high time South Africans looked inward and solve their problems. Nigerians who are traders, professionals and lecturers in their universities are certainly not the causes of their problems. They must blame their leaders. The current president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, a millionaire made his money from the mines and it is on record that when some of his mine workers wanted better welfare package, he sent the police to kill his own people. Therefore, whatever Ramaphosa may say or do, he has the blood of his people in his hands. Certainly, Nigerians did not tell the South African police to kill the poor miners.
The South African Catholic bishops maintained that there was a conspiracy of silence on the part of the government in the killing of Nigerians and looting of their properties. And that the police watched idly as South Africans commit murder and steal Nigerians` properties. Though the government has denied it but the statement from the South African Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Dr. Naledi Pandor contradicted the official line.
In what could be recorded as Freudian slip, the minister justified the xenophobic attacks by asking the Nigerian government to stop the Nigerian drug dealers from coming to South Africa, saying that was one of the reasons for the xenophobic attack. Hear Pandor :`I would appreciate them (Nigerian government) in helping us as well to address the belief of our people have, the reality that there are many persons from Nigeria who are dealing in drugs in our country, who are harming our young people by making drugs easily available to them. I believed Nigerian nationals are involved in human trafficking and other abusive practices. This kind of assistance of ensuring such persons don`t come to our country would be of great assistance to our nation`.
This is nothing short of racial profiling. The Minister cannot prove that only Nigerians are involved in drug and human trafficking. If Nigerians are involved in such crimes, what is the government doing to their South African allies? This statement from the minister is an echo of Robert Mugabe that in the chemistry of the average South African, his problem is caused by the better educated Africans or outsiders. The issue of xenophobia will not end in South Africa as long as top government officials are not ready to look at the image in the mirror and make amendment. Scapegoatism is not how to solve problem, whether national or individual.
It is unfortunate that despite the human and material sacrifices made by Nigeria to end apartheid, ingratitude is the currency in which we are being paid. A lot of South African leaders were trained in Nigerian universities at the expanse of the government and Nelson Mandela, the icon of the apartheid struggle was in Nigeria for many years and once a guest of Nnamdi Azikiwe. If there are reprisals in Nigeria, South Africa will lose. Nigerians do not have major and corporate investments in South Africa. We have MTN, Shoprite, DSTV and other South African investments in the oil and gas sector. Should we strike and nationalize their assets, it will not be a laughing matter. If South Africa and its president, Cyril Ramaphosa, want to solve the problem, he should come to Nigeria. President Muhammadu Buhari has business going to South Africa. May be it is time we stop philanthropy in international diplomacy and rather look at the economic returns of such diplomacy. The Abuja authority must look in that direction.
Julius Oweh, a journalist, Asaba, Delta State.