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The chickens from South Africa – Part 2


A mob armed with spears, batons and axes run through Johannesburg’s Katlehong Township during a new wave of anti-foreigner violence on September 5, 2019. PHOTO: GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP

Continued from yesterday
In Hillbrow and the surrounding areas, South Africans have surrendered their own city to foreign nationals, the nation should discuss that particular question. You won’t find South Africans in other countries dominating a city into 80 percent because if we do not debate that, that necessarily means the whole South Africa could be 80 percent dominated by foreign nationals and the future president of South Africa could be a foreign national. We are surrendering our land and it is not xenophobia to talk truth.

We fought for this land from a white minority, we cannot surrender it to foreign nationals. That is a matter of principles. We fought for this country, not only for us, for the generations of South Africans. The arms that are being used here in Hillbrow are arms of war, which are unlicensed. The hijacking of buildings here in Hillbrow is a sign of taking over power. The question of dominance of foreign nationals in illegal trading and also businesses that are here in Hillbrow is an economic sabotage that is taking place against our people that are supposed to be those running those particular businesses. We are facing here service delivery protests.” What we can see here is that irresponsible populism that costs lives is alive and well within the South African government. And like all such expressions of populism, it conflates issues, frames lies as facts and uses these to attack legitimate foreign residents they harbour hatred and jealousy against. I mean, what are the facts? First, Hillbrow is only an inner-city neighbourhood of Johannesburg. If we accept his claims that this part of Johannesburg is occupied by foreign nationals, that is not the same as the whole Johannesburg city being occupied by 80 percent foreign nationals. It’s also not a crime or cause for concern in a genuine democracy and in a country or in a cosmopolitan city that claims to welcome all persons from around the world who have legitimate reasons to live and work there. In big cities around the world, we have China towns outside China, but no one in these places complains that China has taken over these cities. South Koreans and South Korean businesses dominate New Malden in London, but you don’t get the English crying that South Koreans or Chinese are dominating their city of London. The basic principle is that anyone who is in the country legally can set up a home or business and with others can set up a community anywhere within the country where the state must guarantee their safety and freedom. If there are criminal elements operating in these areas, whether they are foreigners or South Africans, the job of the state is to protect all others, citizens and foreigners, from these criminal elements. But what this man is doing in the name of the South African government is isolating innocent foreigners for mob actions by South African citizens. This is not governance; it’s state-sponsored xenophobia.


Secondly, the man talks about South Africans fighting for their land against a white minority, but he quickly forgets that the fight against white minority rule in South Africa was an African fight supported by the whole of Africa, especially Nigeria and those frontline states whose citizens they are now killing in South Africa. Is this how you show appreciation for the help you received from others in the days of your struggle? Would South Africa have been free today if not for the sacrifice citizens and governments of those they are murdering today made for South Africa? Of course, nobody is saying criminal elements amongst foreign nationals should not be dealt with by the South African state, but listening to this Minister, this isn’t the case here. He’s complaining about “illegal trading” and “businesses” dominated by foreign nationals and he thinks his people should be running these businesses, but what exactly does that mean? Is he saying only his people are entitled to do illegal trading in South Africa or only his people are entitled to run businesses? Certainly, illegal trading is illegal, no matter who is doing it and the job of the state is to apprehend these persons, be they foreigners or South African nationals, and prosecute them lawfully. You cannot say only your own people must engage in illegal trading because that in itself is antithetical to the purpose of the state. You cannot say only your people must run businesses is South Africa because those foreigners doing so are doing so legally. The state cannot work to hand over legitimate businesses run by foreigners to their citizens simply on the basis of the owners being foreigners. We have many legitimate South African-owned businesses in Nigeria and our people are happy to patronize them and compete with them; we are not killing them and getting our government officials to say we should be running the businesses because we are Nigerians.

Thus, what the killer South Africans are engaged in is not a service delivery protest as Mr Bongani Mkongi claims because this isn’t a case of Nigerian businesses not delivering on the services they offer. This is xenophobia and it is a most uncivilized way to handle a matter of public security in any country.

Thirdly, the claim that the supposed dominance of foreign nationals in one part of a South African city portends the possibility of a foreign national becoming president of South Africa in the future is an idiotic claim with no basis in fact and in law. I mean, by the very wording and operation of the South African Constitution, a foreign national cannot be elected into the National Assembly from where a president of the republic is chosen. Section 21(2) of the South African Constitution accords only citizens of South Africa the right to vote and be voted for, so what exactly is this Minister talking about? Where in the Constitution he’s presumably sworn to uphold is it stated that a foreign national can be president? That same Constitution in section 19 grants every person, foreigner or citizen, the right freely to choose his or her place of residence anywhere in the national territory of South Africa and that same Constitution under section 28 grants every person, foreigner or citizen, the right to acquire and hold rights in property. So, what is this Minister afraid of? What debate is he looking to have over the corpses of foreigners when the law of his country is clear about their rights in South Africa as residents, workers and business owners?

Here’s the truth, what is happening to the psyche of some South Africans, including some of them in government like this Bongani Mkongi fellow, is comparable to an extent with what’s happening with the psyche of some of us who are Nigerians today due to the effects of previous bad governance and bad political culture. This is the equivalence of an untreated national trauma.
To be continued tomorrow
Emetulu, formerly of The Guardian, wrote from London.


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