Thursday, August 12, 2010

Recent Attacks Are Not Xenophobic But Ethnic

Sibusiso Ndlovu

Zimbabwe’s woes have been caused by the country’s president, Robert Mugabe, who has told the west to “go to hell”. He has however changed his stance on the matter and is now seeking understanding from the countries he once told to stay out of Zimbabwean matters. But that is not the issue I want to discuss here. By his doing his people have moved to other parts of the world, most notably South Africa where they are facing persecution and violent attacks from South Africans.
Mugabe might have caused his people to leave Zimbabwe which forced them to doing jobs in other parts of the world and that resulted them competing with locals for scarce jobs. But in South Africa the problem of xenophobia is bigger than that. We might call it xenophobia but it is actually not – the violence is tribalistic. Unfortunately this has led to a man getting burnt in South Africa.

I have a Zulu name and surname but I am Tsonga and have brothers who have faced some attacks because of the language they speak. They were being accused of being foreign for having a Zulu surname without the ability of speaking the language. To me this means that these Zulu speaking people were saying Tsonga speakers are also not South Africa. They were saying that they are from other parts of the continent which shows that they were not fighting the foreign element; they were fighting people who did not speak their language and are from different ethnic groups.

The government seems to be protecting the perpetrators of the crimes as well. Often They often say that this is normal crime and these are just common criminals and are not attacking anybody because of the part of Africa they come from. It would not make it okay even if they were just common criminals. If they don’t tackle this issue it might spill out of control because as mentioned above, the so called common criminals are no longer just attacking foreigners – they have made this an issue of ethnicity is South Africa.

Ethnic violence saw 800 000 people killed in just under 100 days in Rwanda in 1994. The animosities between the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda started over half a decade before 1994. The issue was never dealt with and led to the violence that we saw which was largely ignored by the world at the time.

Zimbabwe has had ethnicity issues as well between the Shona and the Ndebele. Some even say that there was a slaughter of the Ndebele people in certain regions in the 1980s.

Kenya is another part of Africa which sees people taking sides on ethnicity and they sometimes vote for leaders who come from similar ethnic backgrounds as them.

I believe that this is an issue that needs to be properly dealt with in South Africa before it spirals out of control again. We don't need another man burnt alive. Our leaders should stop saying attacks on people is just normal crime. There is nothing normal about attacking somebody else for any reason. It is even worse when we know that they are being attacked for the language they speak, the way they look and where they come from.

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