Wednesday, May 21, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya

Killings of foreigners in South Africa are spreading fast, very fast. Unless the South African military steps in; the situation may be out of control sooner rather than later.

The twist of fate can be annoying at times. The other day Desmond Tutu and Cyril Ramaphosa were the main guys in Kenya trying to find a lasting solution to the Kenyan crisis. Hardly three months later, has mayhem broken loose on the streets of Johannesburg with far reaching consequences for the most powerful nation on the continent.

Unlike the Kenyan situation that was characterized by long running ethnic injustices, South African jobless hooligans are venting their anger and frustration on foreigners that they have identified as the source of all their problems that range from joblessness to insecurity in their neighborhoods.

As I write this article, another civil unrest is seeping through the once most stable country in Africa; Tanzania. The Mwafaka accord between the ruling party CCM and the main opposition party, CUF doesn’t seem to be holding in Zanzibar and Pemba. The discontent with the Union arrangement hurriedly put together by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere seems to have reached its tipping point.

As we grapple with the unfolding events in the City of Gold, it is not lost on us that the Kenyan situation is not settled yet while Nigerians are still battling with rebels in the oil rich regions of their country.

Like in Kenya , where the government resorted to military intervention in Mt. Elgon area, it would appear like South Africa must go the same root to arrest the mayhem particularly in the slum areas of Johannesburg.

Right now the world press is awash with the killings taking place in South Africa. As of now, the buzz word is xenophobia that I wrote about last week while I was in Tanzania. As it is, one would think that this word, that even some of the most educated in the continent could not spell, let alone pronounce just a few weeks ago, was the invention of South Africans.

The disease that has afflicted South Africans, making them kill their black brothers from the continent is not the preserve of South Africans. The truth is, every country in the world suffers some kind of xenophobia from time to time. For centuries, white Americans targeted the American Negro, the macho black stud that threatened the supremacy of the white man right in his bedroom.

Soon after independence in West Africa, Nigerians at one time expelled Ghanaians en masse over night. The then slogan that persists to this day was; Ghana must go! There is a cheap manila traveling bag named after this xenophobia to this day.
Back here in East Africa, there are deep feelings of suspicion running in the veins of Tanzanians against Kenyans.

Any time the political federation comes up, one can predict the reaction of every Tanzania from the professor to the taxi driver. There is nothing that unites Tanzanians like the word Kenyans, who they see as a threat to their jobs, businesses, peace and well being. To the Tanzanians, an average Kenyan is the incarnation of thuggery, bank robbery, murder, land grabbing and unparalled greed of every kind.

If South Africans are rising in arms against foreigners, they are following in the footsteps of the United States of America, Britain, Germany under Hitler and any other developed country that currently exercises xenophobia against third world economic refugees. Just see the number of West Africans dying at sea in order to get to the land of plenty in Europe to understand the level of xenophobia world wide.

As South Africans they have the right to demand protection from their government. If they don’t get it, they will fight for it. Therefore any potential economic refugees that toy with the idea of going to South Africa to make a fortune must be prepared to face the consequences if the sons of the soil rise up against them.

Yes, it is true Zimbabweans and other former frontline states sacrificed everything for South Africa’s freedom, but they didn’t do this to later grab every job and kiosk from the locals. If Mugabe, Banda, Chiluba and others have run down their economies, it is not the business of South Africans to fix it.

More importantly, don’t sell that old crap that Africa housed South African exiles in their hour of need. The boys rioting on the streets are a new breed whose fathers died in battlefields with nothing to show for it. They are the young generation that was probably ten years old or younger when Mandela walked away from Robben Island. These are the people who have been let down by Thabo Mbeki’s regime.