Xenophobia/Afrophobia is our worst nightmare – it signals a slide to complete lawlessness. Without ‘law and order’ South Africa will degenerate into anarchy. We have heard of threats from terrorist groups and African government threaten to close South African business, surely all this will not create Financial opportunities for local communities, rather deteriorate our communities.
Xenophobic Attacks in a sense is worse than what the perpetrator feel are correcting or addresses – it represents collective action of the worst kind – there is no certainty that the correct “perpetrator” has been identified, the sanction is not proportional to the crime committed, and without fail, in each recorded case, a horrific brutality has been meted out. And it demeans the dignity of the executioner! How is it possible that one can be content to burn a person to death for reason this person is dark than I am, or from different geo location? Can one feel happy and at peace as a person after such a dastardly deed? Does it not put one in the same category as a murderer?
Who wants to live in a South Africa such as this - where humanity is so cheap – whether at the hands of the primary perpetrator, or the vengeful collective victim, or indeed the State?
But, we cannot all flee from our democratic land to far flung territory overseas – and so , we have to stand our ground, determine what is causing this response, and for goodness sake DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
Though much cause will be found in formal government functions, or lack thereof, much can be said about the role of the family, community, the public, and society in general in combating this scourge. Gone are the days where we can glibly blame poverty and deprivation for our crime rate – yes, it has a contributory role, but crime is so complex and its causes are multiple. Moreover it is offensive to our millions of poor people to hang crime Xenophobia and vigilantism around their proverbial neck.
Law enforcement alone cannot break this cycle – although the lack of early and effective police responses have been shown to be a trigger, as is the processes of the justice system which is still an enigma to the many who have to access it – as accused, as victim, as witness, as interested onlooker. We have seen no real conviction from perpetrators of Xenophobia, we have seen man torched in front of law enforcement and little done, it has been 7 years since the first wave of Xenophobic attacks, with one image that has stayed a fresh in many minds, ‘The burning Man’ to date no arrest has been done or any convictions. Seeing an alleged perpetrator of a crime ‘walk free’ after a successful bail application, or even a diversion or non custodial sentence, is enough to spur the community into action as they perceive this to be another example of police and judicial intransigence.
Given our past, violence as a means of conflict resolution is now embedded in our psyche – our history attests to this. Violence towards partners in the home, violence on school campuses, violence by law enforcement officers, violence by parents towards their children, violence on roads, violence on sports fields – these are all examples of how entrenched violence has become. Xenophobia attacks are one more example of this – with the caveat that it is a response to the desperation of communities who are bent over by the constant and endemic avalanche of crime against them.
Xenophobic attacks cannot be condoned – notwithstanding what causes it, how desperate and victimized a community might feel – we just cannot go that route if we are to salvage anything like a half decent life in our democracy. But, WE must do something about it.
We all have a role to play, Emmanuel Sithole could be any of us, could be our lover, brother, sister child. We need a collective approach to find a lasting solution, connecting communities and uniting Africa.