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Greener Pastures And Grinning Borders

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Xenophobic  attacks in South Africa- image source classicmagazine

ONLY a traveller between dictionaries and word factories like Alaba, Trouble’s special assistant, would find easy links between green eyes of jealousy and envy and grinning as derisive contemptuous laughter.

And link these responses to the unsuccessful refugee or even the successful immigrant from the indigenous population. They are not from here but they are benefitting from here.

And if they were not here we would be benefitting from here. But before they came we were not benefitting from here. Can we ask them to share with us how they do it, benefit from the barrenness that we see around us? How do we come from here? A friend in a coastal village between Cape Town and the Cape Coast once entertained the family to the way and manner Nigerians walk down the streets of South African cities, towns and villages as if they owned the place.

He concluded his narrative with the wisdom that our own blacks walk these streets with trepidation! And they come with their own barbers and restaurants as if they have come to stay!  Someone reported that the drug lords of the Cape Flats complained that Nigerian drug lords had taken over their turfs.

There are other stories also narrated by no less a person than the president of the country in open letter to a writer to the effect that business employers of casual labour (most labour in South African is being casualised unfortunately) sacked a group of South African labourers and employed illegal immigrants who would not go on strike and would have no problem being paid less than the going minimum wage.

Many of the dwellers in the townships report that foreigners get RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) houses over and above natives who have been on queue for same for 10 years.

These foreigners achieve this by bribing the officials in charge of these free houses. As for those who set up spaza shops in the townships, they are accused of selling items at prices that some of the natives sell such items and so many people, including the natives prefer to buy from them.

Most of these traders are Somalis, Ethiopians and Pakistanis. They are also perhaps mainly Muslims whose habits of dress and worship and diet keep them away from being able to relate to their host communities more intimately.

One of the most difficult to arbitrate between foreigners and natives is the accusation of the natives that the foreigners take their women. Some South African women gush over the way and manner foreigners and especially Nigerians take care of the women they are going out with.

The Nigerian popular song ‘She can spend my money, I don’t care!’ seems to do it for them. One lady said they would casually tell you: ‘I like you.

Can we go to Maputo this weekend and discuss it?’ Or a more outrageous ‘I need to make some photocopies for a book. Would you like to come with me for the trip? It will take a week or two!’ And they learn the language, especially those who live in the townships.

Nothing can be more affirming of the host communities than these new arrivals getting to understand the communities in which they are living in by learning to hear them and understand them in their own languages.

This is the only reason they can call these communities their own ‘hoods’. Because of them, the landscape changes. There are industries specific to the emigrant community anywhere in the world.

There are the hair dressing and hair selling boutiques unique to them. Most of their clients are the female population and the globilisation of the hair industry has even made them to be in great demand.

The restaurants are also set up initially to serve the foreigners and give them the foods they are used to at home far from home. There are of course the illegal industries as the sex industry, the forging and documentation industries and the dangerous drugs illegal procurement and distribution. Law enforcement is usually the first challenge when foreigners, immigrants, legal and illegal refugees arrive in any country.

Where their entry is not monitored or controlled and they settle among the indigenous population they would learn the ropes of coping from the local people and use such knowledge for their own advantages.

In places where they are monitored, controlled and planted in camps and refugee villages like the ones in Zambia some years ago, law and order is usually well managed and relationships with neighbouring indigenous villages are mutually beneficial to both sides.

The African foreigners have made the case for coming to South Africa on the grounds that when the South Africans were not welcome in South Africa, the other African countries made them welcome in their countries.

True as this is, and both the leadership and the general population agree that this is true. But the South Africans have not been allowed to enjoy their newly-won independence before these other Africans came barging in and wanting to enjoy it with them.

The African Union has said nothing about young Africans dying in the Sahara and drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. No African country sent any representatives to the burial of these over 800 drowned somewhere in Italy.

So, can we expect the African Union to do something about working out these relationships in South Africa?


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