Understandably, emotions are running high. How do black South Africans dare mistreat African migrants after what Africa did to bring the apartheid system that run from 1948 to 1994 to a halt?
Never in history has the entire African continent been single-minded in fighting evil like it did with apartheid in South Africa. The front line States – Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania and from 1980 Zimbabwe, bore the brunt of the subsequent recalcitrant National Party governments in South Africa that thought they could sustain a system based on the fallacious logic of racial superiority. Others such as Libya and Uganda provided financial and moral support for South Africans against apartheid.
In the late 80s under sustained armed, moral and financial pressure, the regime of FW de Klerk caved in and opted for a negotiated settlement. The minority White regime went into this settlement armed with the experience of European powers, Portugal, Britain, France and Belgium that exited the continent in the 1960s.
The majority Black freedom fighters led by Nelson Mandela similarly came to the negotiating table with the very attitude their counterparts on the African continent had at the end of the colonial era and the dawn of ‘Independence’.
The National Party ceded political power. But like the colonialists, held onto the economic and financial power with banking, manufacturing, the service industry and other sectors remaining firmly in their hands.
As for the Blacks, besides the milestone of being able to vote for the first time in April 1994, they had the trappings of political power hitherto held by the Whites – but without considerable economic power.
With their economic muscle, the minority Whites could still have a huge say in the destiny of South Africa. The majority Blacks, despite the political power, could not easily match that. This has been the tragedy of Independent Africa from the 1960. We have political power without being able to determine our destiny because we have not developed the economic ability -despite the opportunity and the resources.
In South Africa, economic power kept the spirit of apartheid alive. A black person wallowing in poverty and is unemployed may not go to a hotel like his white counterpart who has a well-paying job despite the fact that both of them are ‘equal’, have a right to vote, and there are no restrictions to either.
In 1994, many had not had an education that – all things remaining constant – would guarantee them good employment. This would imply that the children they bore would also have to struggle with poverty and its effects. The effects of apartheid, especially poverty, would follow them for a long time and that is where they find themselves today.
In this vein, things changed but remained the same. Blacks are almost where they had been before 1994 – only that they have the right to vote. It is not by accident that South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Incidents of rape, murders, car jacking, mugging, theft are well-documented. This is the effort of many of the black people in trying to put bread on the table.
The government in South Africa (like with most of Africa), has found itself impotent in delivering economic prosperity and hope to the majority despite the optimism that came with the end of apartheid and colonialism. Governments can easily talk about ‘exciting’ things like freedom, self-determination and ‘victory’ over imperialism, etc. But people do not eat that high sounding rhetoric.
Killing foreigners for ‘taking their jobs’ (imagine an illiterate killing a medical doctor) is just an avenue to vent pent-up anger and frustration at a weak link in the chain. The government looks on haplessly because that provides a diversion and temporary relief for failure to actualise its mandate.
And now with the neo-liberal economic policies in vogue the ones that insist that governments leave market forces to determine the distribution of resources, most governments are at the ‘mercy’ of the private sector. It is very difficult for, say the government, to intervene with policies of affirmative action to provide massive employment, cheap housing, transport and healthcare by subsidising State-owned enterprises.
The market thinks about cost and profit and rarely entertains that attitude of the legendary mother goose that fends for its young ones. It is going to require great leadership and ingenuity to get South Africa out of this situation. Unfortunately, President Jacob Zuma has not demonstrated any of these traits.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues. email@example.com
SOURCE: Daily Monitor