The xenophobes are ingrates
The Whites, however, had the superiority of fire power, the Bantu could boast of bows and arrows. Therefore, the Whites could conveniently ride roughshod over the rights of the Bantu race. The new government introduced the policy of apartheid, to mean ‘separate’ development. Apartheid is the Afrikaans word for “separateness.” It was the government policy from 1948 to 1989 of racial segregation. Segregation was practised by White governments in South Africa against the Blacks who were in the majority.
White workers were privileged in an economy that was dependent on Black labour. The African majority population was disenfranchised with 70 per cent of the reserve for White uses. Such legislations included Population Registration, the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages, demarcation of Group Areas and restructuring of Bantu Education, as well as the Suppression of Communism. The Bantu were to have no part in the White man’s life, but to form separate communities under different law, regulations, public services, all defined by the Whiteman to keep the Black in inferior conditions. In 1958, Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd became the Prime Minister to continue with the apartheid policy.
In the Commonwealth, there was criticism, and at the 1951 Conference, South Africa complained that Britain admitted India, Pakistan and Ceylon to the Commonwealth with sovereign status, without first consulting other dominions. There was consultation, but South Africa was conscious that non-European criticism would be damaging to apartheid. Apartheid South Africa could not secure approval from the Commonwealth, because racial equality was fundamental. As years passed on, it was apparent that sooner or later South Africa would have to choose between apartheid and the Commonwealth. Gradually, new non-European members were admitted into the Commonwealth. Such countries were Ghana, West Indies, Nigeria, Malaya, all which abhorred the separatist policy.
Inside South Africa itself, there was vehement opposition to the inhuman policy. But the opposition was equally forcibly suppressed. The main African political movements were banned and their leaders imprisoned, exiled or both. Nelson Mandela who stood out as the spear-head was jailed for nearly 30 years. There was the Soweto up-rising of 1976, and the resistance to regime persisted.
International pressures were mounted through organisations. The world’s press was not left out, to sensitise opinion against the odium. Nigeria played positive roles. This country had many heads of state who were committed to the liberation struggle.
Nigerian journalists, including this writer made their modest contributions in the defunct Daily Express and the Morning Post newspapers in support of the Africans. Pungent editorials regularly condemned the regime in South Africa. University students made their feelings known through demonstrations in many capitals. The trade unions were not left behind in the struggle against the obnoxious policy.
The Organisation of African Unity (now, African Union) never shirked its responsibilities towards African brothers and sisters. Regularly, Black leaders therefrom visited Nigeria for assorted aids, financial and materials. Protests endured for long. As it was in Nigeria, so it was in Black and European nations of the world. Nigeria’s ex-heads of state’s imprecations might have worked well.
By 1989, there was majority support for new leadership under Frederik W.de Klerk. De Klerk freed Nelson Mandela and other political detainees, unbanned the nationalist parties, including the Communists, by 1992, repealed all the main apartheid legislations. The African National Congress (ANC) has been in power since April, 1994. Now, apartheid has gone into oblivion.
The struggle was not for political independence which was won in 1910, but for Black majority rule that was won in April, 1994. This explanation is essential, because most readers may not understand; confusion may arise in their minds. There is difference between the Independence of 1910 and the Black majority rule of 1994, long fought for. There is now post-apartheid unrest occasioned by pent-up ill-feelings, known as xenophobia.
Given the phenomenon of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, my observation is that the present generation of Blacks in South Africa are inveterate ingrates. With the aforementioned brutal consequences of apartheid policy on their older generations of compatriots, dead or alive, why must the foreigners in that country be rewarded with attacks? In the struggle against the inhuman policy, the world was involved, through the United Nations (UN). The African Union (AU) was not excluded, whilst Nigeria as a member of the Commonwealth and individually, had its economy bruised in reprisal for its roles in freeing South Africa.
Xenophobia is the attitude of hatred or contempt for foreigners. It is not patriotism or national self-esteem, because it consists of negative attitudes towards the outsiders. It manifests in hostility to immigrants. If the struggle against the policy is juxtaposed with the latest development in South Africa, therefore, it can safely be concluded that the perpetrators are deep-rooted ingrates. And ingratitude is a sin as decreed by every religious faith.
• Oshisada, a veteran journalist, writes from Ikorodu, Lagos.