Pulse Blogger Xenophobia: The new face of Apartheid in Africa

Going by happenings across Africa, any keen follower of the great continent’s history will no doubt observe a new wave of political conspiracy aimed at whittling the strength of Africa's power as a united front by ensuring separateness and segregation

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South Africans pictured protesting play

South Africans pictured protesting

(Daily Post)
Ezrel Tabiowo play

Ezrel Tabiowo

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Recent eruption of xenophobic violence against African immigrant resident in South Africa sparked off strong reactions and condemnations from governments, international bodies and individuals, following the inability of the Jacob Zuma led government to wade into the situation that resulted in the death of scores.

While condemnation of attacks against foreign African nationals in South Africa, particularly those residing in the worst hit port city of Durban, continues to pour in torrents amidst concerted efforts by respective African governments to evacuate their citizens, the underlying motivation behind the rage of South Africans clearly seems to be ignored and overlooked.

Going by happenings across Africa, any keen follower of the great continent’s history will no doubt observe a new wave of political conspiracy aimed at whittling the strength of Africa's power as a united front by ensuring separateness and segregation - the new face of apartheid - that targets to divide African nations.

The ploy which utilises discrimination along the line of religion, tribalism and regionalism, gets its steam from the exploit of tribal and religious loyalty to advance personal gain, parochial interests, patronage, and cronyism.

With African leaders buying into the scheme for sheer reasons of political gains, they skilfully master their art by following the trail of imperialist colonial indoctrination which created the perfect atmosphere for same by forcing different communities to live within artificial boundaries. In other words, the greatest and common enemy of Africans are their desperate leaders bent on promoting the politics of identity.

In South Africa, the origin of politics of identity can be traced to 1948, when the Afrikaner National Party, determined to introduce its policies of separateness, won the general election under the slogan "apartheid", following intense clamour on the South African government for same to be introduced due to harsh economic conditions foisted on it during the period of Great Depression and World War II.

The goal of the ANP at that time was not only to separate South Africa’s white minority from its non-white majority, but also to separate non-whites from each other, and to divide black South Africans along tribal lines in order to decrease their political power.

As a strategy, the agenda of separateness exploits a nation's diversity through the introduction of a political thought that thrives on separation of citizens; a development that is lately seen spreading throughout Africa without resistance.

Also, African democracy, rather than make concerted efforts to build modern political parties founded on development ideas, base their competition for power on tribal, regional and religious bonds - separateness. This essentially identifies the challenge confronting Africa's democracy as not the prevalence of ethnic diversity, but the use of identity politics to promote narrow tribal interests.

In Kenya for instance, the country was headed for a civil war between 2007 and 2008, following a post-election violence that was fuelled by tribal politics stemming from socio-political and economic competition for resources.

However, attempting to resolve all problems arising from separateness - the basis for tribal politics - the country came up with a new constitution that seeks to address the issue of ethnicity by ensuring that a president needs broad geographical support to be elected.

The constitution provides that a winner must receive more than half of all the votes cast in the election and least 25% of the votes cast in each of more than half of the country's counties. This is also a requirement in developing countries such as Nigeria, whose democracy has come under the hijack of identity politics; one responsible for the north and south-west regions becoming pitched against the south-south and south-east parts of the country, a situation arising from events leading to the outcome of the 2015 general elections.

Despite the existence of constitutional provisions to address tribal separateness, African leaders have tactically upgraded their political strategies to preserve their identities by buying influence and creating convenient alliances and shopping for international support in power centres such as London, Paris, and Washington DC - countries known for imperial colonialism - with the intent of subverting democratic evolution that attempts to play down on tribal politics.

Where desperation for power hits maximum gear, such African leaders are prone to using hate speech and inciting violence. This attitude by the present crop of African leaders have extended to regional politics of the continent, one considered a growing threat to the unity and common purpose of African countries under the umbrella body of the African Union (AU).

During the heat of xenophobia attacks in South Africa, the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, was reportedly said to have called on foreigners to pack their bags and leave, one which further inflamed the fires of violence against Congolese, Ethiopian, Malawian, Mozambican, Nigerian, Somali, Zimbabwean African immigrants in the country.

According to a report by the United Nations, xenophobic attacks against African immigrants to South Africa started in March 2015 after a labour dispute between citizens and foreign workers.

Ironically, rather than blame the President Zuma led administration for failing to improve the lives of black South Africans, the spill effect of the country's economic woes were instead hauled on African migrants who were accused of taking jobs meant for citizens, contributing to high crime rates and undermining local businesses. South Africa has between 2 to 5 million documented and undocumented foreign immigrants.

Recall that President Zuma was severally accused of corruption, and the African National Congress, South Africa's governing social political party, of only looking after its own, a situation that resulted in a number of protests by citizens demanding better basic services.

Interestingly, the country's police minister, Nathi Nhleko, who presented an accurate picture of the recent anti-migrants violence that fits the new face of apartheid - African separateness - described the attacks as examples of "Afrophobia", not xenophobia as reportedly claimed by the media.

He said: "What you don’t see is you don’t see Australians being chased on the streets, Britons being chased on the streets and similar demands being placed on them that they should be leave the country and so on".

"What you effectively see is largely Africans against one another in a sense now. That’s why I’m saying it represents a certain type of political problem that has got to be dealt with by ourselves as South Africans. In a sense, what we are witnessing are actually Afrophobic kind of activities and attacks, resembling all elements of self-hate among Africans."

Meanwhile, as reactions trail attacks on African immigrants in South Africa, citizens of those countries who are targets of anti-migrant violence have vowed to reciprocate xenophobic attacks against South African nationals resident in their respective countries.

In Nigeria, for instance, there are mounting online campaigns and ground protests calling for the immediate boycott of services rendered by giant South African investors such as DSTV, MTN, SHOPRITE etc.

The development, which has unleashed vile hostility between west African states and south Africa, if not checked through timely diplomatic interventions between the latter and African governments whose citizens are targets of xenophobic attacks, may with time escalate to unimaginable proportions capable of triggering civil unrest among countries in the continent.

Also, efforts by the South African government to stem xenophobic violence against African immigrants should go beyond mere condemnations and the provision of shelters and refugee camps; as a matter of fact, an apology to the various governments whose citizens were brutally attacked, should be considered top priority and the way to go given the situation.

More so, unless citizens of African countries resist and reject attempts by their leaders and political parties to foist on them the politics of identity, the last may yet be seen of such wanton display of barbarism among black Africans.

Ezrel Tabiowo is a practising Journalist with years of experience reporting the Federal Parliament in Nigeria. As a Political and Public Affairs Analyst, he has made countless contributions as a Columnist and Blogger towards issues of importance as they affect Nigeria and the continent of Africa. He is also a trained Rights Activist based in Abuja, Nigeria.