Stephen Mpofu, Perspective
EVEN in the aftermath of the recent waves of violence that swept across Africa’s second biggest economy after Nigeria, enraged Africans elsewhere on the continent and far beyond are wont continually to pose a question: “What on earth do you South Africans hope to achieve through your barbaric black-on-black violence that makes the black race a laughing stock across the world?”
But, of course, there will be no direct response presently from the perpetrators of the violence against foreign nationals, except for the echoes of the rehearsed: “They take our jobs”.
Ironically, however, it is the blacks from other African states including Zimbabweans, who have set up shops in that vast country, providing resources that keep the souls and bodies of their hosts together in addition to creating employment for them in a country where apartheid previously treated the natives there like good for nothing creatures fit only to render slave services to their white masters before South Africa’s democratisation in 1994.
Reviewing the businesses targeted by violence across the country’s many cities, one might be forgiven to believe that the hooligans took a cue from hurricane winds that have wreacked havoc with flooding across the Atlantic and on the Bahamas Islands, virtually destroying homes and other various infrastructure in their wake, painting a gloomy future for the islanders.
But unlike the wind and rainstorms on the other side of the world with no sign of abating, the violence in South Africa has been discriminatory as businesses operated by Indians, Chinese and others for instance, were left unaffected.
Curiouser and curiouser.
A Zimbabwean national in South Africa told Zimbabwe crew members running Studio 7 of the Voice of America in Washington DC that when workers informed him that his shop was under attack, he called a police emergency number but there was no reply. However, when he eventually got in touch the police “appeared reluctant” to take action to save his business.
The caller reported that some people were doused in petrol and set on fire and that cars were torched.
At least five people were reported to have died by Wednesday this week in the violence on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town.
Earlier, South African police had said people whose businesses were under attack and wished to remove their goods would be helped by them to do so.
But surely, the lackadaisical attitude and approach of the police to the violent activities in that vast country cannot fail to make concerned publics (rpt publics) conclude that the law enforcement agents are complicit in the criminal activities in point – another mind-boggling tragic irony for many law abiding citizens across the globe.
Foreign nationals under siege in South Africa ought instead to be appreciated for undertaking various jobs on which locals thumb their noses, preferring instead to expend their energy on jive dance floors and then getting involved in robberies and other inimical activities to feast on the sweat of the people.
It is generally belied that the attacks on foreign businesses are abetted by a criminal passion among the lazy.
Incidentally, foreign African nationals, including Zimbabweans, because of their higher academic qualifications and their industry, hold executive jobs, helping in the growth of that economy.
When the contributions made by foreign blacks to employment creation as well as to the growth of the South African economy are considered, it becomes abundantly clear and imperative that the government in Pretoria faces a mammoth task of dealing with the current ironic tragedies to redeem its image especially after that country’s choice as the venue for the World Economic Forum which drew world leaders and potential investors in that country as well as elsewhere on the African continent.
President Mnangagwa was therefore spot on when he arrived in South Africa for the World Economic Forum meeting and urged South African authorities to do everything in their power to prevent violence against foreign nationals and their properties.
His address should also be viewed within the context of his being the current chairman of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.
Some African leaders who reportedly boycotted the meeting apparently because of the satanic violence there may have criticised ED for attending the important meeting.
But as also the Head of State of a country whose economy is under siege by illegal Western economic sanctions, no one from Zimbabwe other than the person of our President would have been the proper leader to engage in ear-to-ear, eye-to- eye and heart-to-heart interlocutions, rather than telephonic conversations, with the world leaders at the forum on African soil.
Indeed Zimbabweans genuinely concerned about the decline of our economy caused by the economic and financial embargo on the Zanu-PF government and on this nation as a whole will no doubt expect positive responses to our President’s appeal to the West to remove the sanctions in order to restore normalcy in relations between us and the rest of the world as a result of the engagement the President is pursuing right now.
Back to the traumas that foreign nationals and Zimbabweans in South Africa face under violent activities there, it would appear that industrialisation is the answer to the problems that African States face with their citizens migrating to what may first appear as greener pastures — as is the case with people going to look for work in South Africa among them millions of Zimbabweans.
In another discourse in these columns last week, we urged higher and tertiary institutions in our country to equip those they train with skills for job creation.
The same must apply to all other countries if the dreams of industrialisation are to become a reality on our largely poverty-stricken continent.
For instance, African countries endowed with mineral riches that they export overseas or, indeed to other African countries for processing into finished products must make a mighty paradigm shift in order for industrialisation for them to become a reality.
Such countries must send students to follow the exports to foreign lands, especially overseas, for training in their processing into finished products and then come back home to use the skills they obtained to mine, process and then export the finished products with value addition earning handsome dividends for their nations.
It is absolutely nonsense to set up industries that export raw materials for processing into finished products abroad as this amounts to exporting jobs that are badly needed back home to grow economies to feed people and promote economic and political stability at home.
When the above is seriously considered, Zimbabwe and other young economies might wish to make an about turn yesterday in concurrence with the saying: “Better late than never.”