The recent xenophobic attacks in South African townships and towns have got South Africans talking – and coming to varying conclusions. There are all sorts of discussion about how we could alleviate the problem and discussions about why exactly this is happening. For me, this matter makes my blood boil. I have dear, dear friends whom I’ve lived with, men like Patrick from the Congo and Lionel – whom I love dearly and the thought that were they in the country right now they and their families would fear being burned by my own people brings a blinding mixture of shame and anger. I think it’s high time me and my people start looking hard at ourselves.
If you survey the net at the moment, some would have us blame the government for what’s going on – all the lack of jobs and businesses and structures are the cause of this. Whether or not those facts are true in my view is irrelevant; the government aren’t the people right now in Durban and Verulam looting foreigners’ businesses. In fact, the government has always been publicly speaking against this – from Thabo Mbeki’s moving speech in 2008 to Zizi Kodwa’s public statement today. Some would have us blame the Apartheid government for this; well, pray do tell, when did we stoop down to pointing at other people’s misdoings to justify our own? I’m no lawyer but I hope that kind of argument does not hold water in a court of law. Still others would have us blame the foreigners themselves; they sell drugs and come here and have businesses that flourish at the expense of our own. This is basically saying; they had it coming. Forget that we employ police officers to deal with the minority that commit illegal actions. Forget that we have BEE and citizenship which by definition gives us an edge over them. No, no, folks, these aren’t natural disasters, we don’t need advanced degrees to understand them. These attacks are clearly being done by a particular group of people on another particular group of people; namely, black South Africans (we’ll now refer to them as SABM – the South African Black Man) on foreign African nationals. We first have to admit that black South Africans – in Soweto, in Durban – are guilty of what’s going on. This is important because when we linger on that, objectively, and we examine the black population in the country, we start seeing some terrible trends which make it clear that these attacks, whether now or back in 2008, shouldn’t surprise us.
Since about 1948, when the Apartheid system of structural discrimination in South Africa came to existence, the SABM has been the recipient of the world’s support and pity in various ways. It was a heinous thing; the man was oppressed in his own land, and to free him was a cause that both communist and capitalist alike subscribed to. The lasting result of this worldwide support was that to this day, the SABM is seen to be above reproach. A lot of his problems are from the past, and so he is quickly acquitted of accusation and he subscribes to no self-examination. To accuse him of wrong doing is to invite a history lesson about the past, and what necessarily follows is whatever explanation he gives for his wrong doing is justified – and the worst part, is that he believes this. He sincerely and wholeheartedly believes that the blame can always somehow go to the past. But can he now manoeuvre away the blame for these cold-hearted actions? I want to argue that he can’t. I want to argue that he is less of a saint than he thinks he is, and I want to examine with you some evidence as to why he needs to start asking himself some hard questions.
Now let me throw in this caveat: I grew up in rural KZN, the large majority of my young life I spent in a no-lights, no-running water village in the midlands. I finished high school in a rough township in Zululand. I know first-hand SABM’s struggle with poverty, lack of resources and all round hardship. I am SABM. But, SABM, I also know of another side to you, a side that to me shows that these xenophobic attacks aren’t an inconsistency with your character.
Let’s start here; SABM is corrupt. So much is said about the government being corrupt and such, but what strikes me as ironic is that most of the same black people who point fingers at government are the same ones who buy drivers licences. Yes, buy. If you’ve spent any amount of time in a township or a village, you know there are three common ways of getting a licence; buy one, bribe to pass the test, or do the long winded legal way of actually learning how to drive. My goodness, I only wish I had official stats with me. You think black South Africans are famous for violent robberies and hijackings? Nah. Those are the minority, those are criminals we hate. In our societies, this here corruption is a corruption that even the most respected men and women are guilty of. It’s a sin we drink as though it were water. We don’t blink an eye to it. There is perhaps no illegal activity that would send more black South Africans to jail then this one. Old and young alike. You, SABM, you know I’m telling the truth. We complain that traffic officers want bribes all the time, yet don’t we realise that there wouldn’t be any traffic officer asking if no one was giving? Also, SABM is terribly violent. Folks, these xenophobic attacks aren’t an anomaly. We are a violent people. We fight all the time. We kill each other all the time. We beat up our women. We rape our grandmothers. Mob justice is prevalent in communities that are dominated by us. And perhaps there is no sphere of our life that our violence is more profound than in one of our chief industries; the taxi industry. Our taxis are known in the media mostly for the bad driving. Alas, if only that was the chief issue with that industry. It is possibly singularly the most widely known to be violent and yet legal industry in the country. This is another juncture where I wish I had stats. But I know, and the majority of SABM know, that only tough guys enter the taxi business. By divine grace I’ve lived and survived through many a territorial war between taxi associations, and I’m willing to bet my breakfast that the majority of SABM’s reading this have too. Or at least have been aware of one. We even have a DSTV show, Isibaya, which has a wide following because it reflects the reality of that industry so much. We are a brutal, ruthless people who fight amongst ourselves all the time.
SABM is sexually immoral. Someone has to say it; the situation in our high schools is a reflection on our character. By and large, in our communities it is an anomaly that a child gets born in wedlock. It’s that bad. It is no longer shameful that a girl comes back from a normal school day to announce that she is pregnant. Don’t believe Soul City (if that show is still on), the shame is long gone. We’ve accepted it as the norm. SABM, you’re evil. You’ve been harbouring self-pity for a long time and you may have been able to hide your sins in the past but now, with these xenophobic attacks, you’re naked in front of the whole world that sees your deeds. You’ve done much evil; you feast on the vulnerable; just think, why aren’t there xenophobic attacks on the rich foreigner who lives in Sandton? Because you can’t get your hands on him. You’d burn him too if you could but you can’t, so you burn the weak men and women among you who are simply trying to make a living. This is a testimony to the depravity of your hearts. You’re no longer a broken and weak people, SABM; you’re a violent and unloving people. You care only for your own stomachs, and your deeds now show that you will stop at nothing to get what you want; you will even murder the same people who kept you safe as exiles during the times of your distress. Tell me, Tambo, Mandela, Bizos – did they all struggle so you can be free and not share the spoils of your freedom with your neighbours? Was this what the struggle was all about – that you can live out your greedy, immoral and corrupt lives and be heartless while you’re at it?
“Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.”_ Loki, Marvel’s The Avengers
We have always been like this. The whole world has always been this way. There has always been violence and corruption and immorality. Trying to solve these attacks by creating refugee camps and arguing for more jobs is like putting a plaster on an infected wound. It may seem to control the problem for a while, but we’ll always find a way to be violent again. You need to clean the infection. Loki, in Marvel’s The Avengers, put our infection accurately in the above words. The problem with humanity is indeed that we were made to be ruled, and yet we want to rule ourselves. We were created, and designed, to be subject to a good Master, but we fight constantly to rule ourselves. Before you start objecting and thinking I’m being religious, hear me out. We had black kings in the past, men like Shaka, whom we were not too happy with. Then we had the colonialists ruling over us. We were also not happy with them. Then we had straight up oppressors in the form of the Apartheid government, and we were appalled by them. And now we have some of our own ruling us again. Are we happy? The fact of the matter is, no human ruler will ever be to our satisfaction. We clearly aren’t happy with ourselves as well; the outcry from what’s going on in KZN right now is proof of that. Our dissatisfaction with human leadership is rooted in our DNA – God the Almighty fashioned us to be ruled by Him. He is the righteous Judge of all the earth. He is the One who never lies. He is the One who knows no corruption. And the terrifying thing is, He is the defender of the weak. He is the One who is incensed by xenophobia. You should be very afraid, because you will have your day in front of Him to be judged.
Let it be clear to you, SABM, that the problem has never been racism. Or which continent anyone or their forefathers are from. It has never been land grabs. The problem has never been systems of government or resource allocation. These are symptoms. The problem, for thousands of years, has been sin – our desire for self-rule. Notice that the problems that I listed here that are prevalent among you have also been prevalent in one measure or another in all societies of mankind since the serpent spoke. Hear what I’m not saying; I’m not saying you are worse than anyone else, but I’m simply stating that you are bad, you must not be so defensive all the time, you must accept accusation. Indeed, yours is a problem that is not unique to you, but my hope for you is that you would admit it. Stop playing the race card. Stop playing the victim. It is terrifying to hear a senior government official blame the ”unequal society as a legacy of our exclusionary and racist past” in the wake of the mad violence in Durban. Absolute blather! You, SABM, are clearly now the victimiser and its time you took responsibility and repented of your actions. Forget the white man for two seconds – you are the one who is killing helpless people who are peacefully living among you. There is no gun to your head; you’re doing it because you want to. Your heart is now exposed for the whole African continent to see, and your brothers up north see you for what you are. We must take responsibility, and admit that we don’t have it all together. That our main problem isn’t the exclusionary legacy of our past, but rather the source of our current misbehaviours: sin.
Just two weeks ago, over the Easter period, we were reminded of a climactic event in the history of humanity. No other event in history amounts to this period – Jesus Christ, the Son of God – died and rose again from the dead. God, the judge of all mankind poured out His righteous anger on Him who became sin – which means, he became the very personification of corruption, immorality, indecency, evil – and this same Son rose again from the dead so that all who would hope in Him would have forgiveness of their sins. My fellow people, this is our only hope. God has in His kindness given us a way to Himself by destroying His Son on a cross so that we who should be destroyed can have life. We are clearly guilty; and this Son, Jesus Christ, is the only one who can acquit us by His blood. If we only acknowledge our sin, and stop making excuses, and repent before Him, we will find that in Him even these terrible crimes against our fellow African brothers can be forgiven without money and without cost.