South Africa’s belated apology and future Xenophobic upheaval
Sir: The rejection and resentment suffered by the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa in Zimbabwe during Robert Mugabe’s funeral dealt a heavy blow to the people and government of South Africa. They obviously did not know how Africans resented them due to the incessant hatred they demonstrated against fellow Africans through xenophobia. Well-meaning African leaders and elder statesmen took turns to eulogize late Robert Mugabe but there was one President that was considered unfit to utter a word during the funeral. One expects that he should have read the handwriting on the wall by sending a representative for South Africa but he chose to attend thinking that he is indeed one of first class African President but he was wrong. Obviously, he failed to come to the realization that xenophobia is evil and that the denial and politicization of xenophobia was offensive to Africans.
When it was the time of the South African President to eulogize late Robert Mugabe a hell was let loose, the solemn occasion became charged as Africans present, including Zimbabweans temporarily suspended solemn attitude by protesting against the South African President. They did not want to see him neither did they want to hear there gibberish he will spew. It was reality check for Cyril at that time, because he was censured in the presence of international media. Oh, he would have said to himself, the news headlines would be terrible tomorrow. In his imagination he was seeing some scathing headlines like, “South African President Ramaphosa booed in Zimbabwe”, “South Africa’s Ramaphosa now a persona non grata”.
A minute would have felt like ten long hours for Ramaphosa; he was taunted, jeered and derided by the mammoth crowd. The message was loud, crystal and clear even to the blind. He went home embarrassed, knowing that South Africa has lost her place in Africa. No nation wanted to identify with them because of their hate and distaste for foreigners whom they looted and destroyed their goods; some even lost their lives. After the embarrassing outing in Zimbabwe Ramaphosa and his lieutenants received a ‘reality bang’ knowing that if they don’t amend the wrongs of xenophobia their nation will go down economically and in other departments of their national life in no distant time.
South Africa now jettisoned their initial defence and justification for xenophobia. They are no longer hoisting a lame alibi that foreigners especially Nigerians are criminals. President Ramaphosa went ahead to appoint emissaries with baskets of apologies to all the affected African nations affected by the xenophobic attack which he should have done a long time ago save for the baptism of fire he received in Zimbabwe. I do not want to talk about President Muhammadu Buhari who was so clueless as to what steps to take by declaring that he will go and pay Ramaphosa a visit over the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians. A daft statement raised and bolstered the impudence of South African authorities.
For me, now that the weighing balance has tilted the Nigerian government must take maximum advantage of the ‘embarrassment inspired remorse’ to table their demands. First, is the total condemnation of xenophobia by South African people and government, second is the prosecution of the culprits, third is the compensation of Nigerians who lost their properties to the xenophobic attack and lastly is a deliberate effort to re-calibrate the mind-set of South Africans through an effective national reorientation. Nothing short of this will quench the fiery furnace of xenophobia. I am waiting for the South African government to act decisively.
By Nnamdi Abana