Perspective, Stephen Mpofu
IS it not a tragic irony that South Africans kick their good Samaritans in the teeth to vent vengeance for the dehumanising acts of racism at the hands of Boers when foreigners, including Zimbabweans, are in that country to help grow its economy while the blacks pick themselves up and dust off the still lukewarm ashes of apartheid that call for a thoroughgoing cleansing process to expunge them from social and economic structures in which they remain embedded to a very large extent.
Recent research carried out in that country concluded that Pakistanis, other Asians and some African entrepreneurs operate shops in African townships neglected over the many decades of white racist rule in the Southern African state to provide goods and services and jobs to locals and foreign nationals, the latter settling for lower pay for their services.
It is common knowledge that the majority of workers on white South African farms came from other African countries as locals shun farm labour, preferring as do their counterparts in urban areas to earn quick bucks through robberies and other violent acts.
It is therefore no exaggeration to say that major cities in South Africa compare with, if not just shy of, America’s city of Chicago where gangsters rule the roost as it were.
As a result, Zimbabweans resident in the South African diaspora, and known back home as have become notorious for their callous disregard for human lives which some of them take as if slaughtering a chicken for a meal.
When in power, the Boers crafted and imposed Bantu education mainly intended to prepare blacks as hewers of wood and drawers of water, in the process depriving the Africans of being vocationally competitive so that now big employers prefer the more skilled foreign black workers instead.
Repeated xenophobic attacks on foreigners in particular, with shops owned by non-South Africans being looted or torched, have made world headlines with relations soured between South Africa and other countries and with Nigeria recently strongly protesting attacks on that country’s nationals in South Africa and calling for compensation for their destroyed property.
In demonstrating their strong antipathy to foreigners, South Africans have accused the strangers of “taking away our jobs”.
But surely if the South Africans possessed requisite job skills and were more determined to develop their country, instead of being the joy-lovers that many of them are, they would swamp the job market and in the process shut out the foreigners whom they accuse of taking away their jobs, or is that not?
Truth is painful, but there it is and xenophobic zealots in that neighbourhood of Zimbabwe should do well to accept reality and run with it rather than hide behind their fingers and vegetate when improving their job skills is the only alternative available for the development of their motherland.
Former South African president Mr Thabo Mbeki has strongly denounced xenophobic attacks, reminding his fellow-nationals that they should not forget that the Africans they attack come from countries that supported the struggle against apartheid rule in their own native country.
But other than those statesman-like words, not much has been heard from the political leaderships in South Africa which ought continuously to have educated the masses there, many of them born after independence in 1994 and are ignorant of the role that countries such as our own, Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania and others further afield played in advancing the freedom and independence that the South Africans now enjoy.
Due to the apparent ignorance prevailing among South Africans about the solidarity they enjoyed from other Africans in their hour of darkness, it might just be a matter of time before someone or more people in post-apartheid South Africa comes up with a crazy idea about building a wall along the Limpopo to prevent blacks from the North and East of the continent crossing over into South Africa “to take away our jobs”.
While, on the other hand, South Africans are fully justified in expelling nationals from a certain West African country for their propensity for drug peddling and related crimes, their shoddy treatment of South Africa’s immediate neighbours might strain, if not completely jeopardise, relations in the Southern African Development Community. For is it not in keeping with the spirit of Sadc for free movement of surplus labour, skilled or non-skilled from one member state boasting a surplus to make good a deficit in another state?
Surely complementary labour serves as a fillip for economic development between and among Sadc member states. Or is the phrase “development community” a misnomer in shared labour?
This pen is persuaded to believe that “economic development community” goes beyond mere palavers shared by heads of state at their regular summits to an exchange of skilled labour in particular in order to improve economies and uplift standards of lives in the community as a whole.
Thus, biting the hands of Samaritans that feed people in a Sadc member state should be replaced with a good gesture of licking those hands instead.