Wednesday, June 4, 2008



By Stan Chu Ilo
Hastings, Ontario, Canada

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Notwithstanding the debate in Quebec and some of the
debate during the Ontario election campaign, I first
of all think immigrants come to this country to belong
to this country…I also think that the Canadian
approach to this, which is a mixture of integration
and accommodation, for a lack of a better term, is the
right approach. -Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen
Harper speaking on Canadian immigration policy,
December 23, 2007.

Many people who have followed post-apartheid South
African society will not be surprised at present and
ongoing uprising of South African Blacks against Black
migrants in Alexandra, Johannesburg. This was a crisis
in the making. There are three fault lines that have
developed since the end of apartheid and the
introduction of Black majority rule in South Africa:
The first is the internal crisis and conflict of
identity among the Black South Africans themselves.

Many young Black South Africans, especially those who
were born in the late 60's and early 70's, never had
an opportunity to develop their skills or attain any
level of educational or professional competence. Most
of them were sired in the revolutionary anti-apartheid
movement of the 70's characterized by militancy and
rebellion. With the end of apartheid, these young men
were left in the broken lower rungs of social
progress, stifled as persons in the choking economic
dungeons of poverty and existential insouciance.

The victorious elites of the ruling party, the ANC,
who took the reins of power at all levels failed to
address the needs of these young people and the
burgeoning Black families who were waking up from the
long night of depersonalization and cultural
asphyxiation. Their concerns were blithely papered
over as temporary social problems that will disappear
as the gains of Black majority rule begin to trickle
down. Unfortunately, close to two decades after the
end of apartheid, the challenges of these lost
generations of South Africans have not been addressed.

The post-Mandela ANC has continued to lose legitimacy
as South African Blacks move from the euphoria of
freedom to the stark reality of Black social apartheid
that is widening the economic divide between the White
South Africans and the Blacks, and among the Blacks
themselves and other colored but marginalized citizens
of South Africa. The ruling party has not seriously
addressed the needs of the lost generation as well as
the Black community as a whole as poverty continues to
spread like wild fire among young Blacks and their
families, and the number of the unemployed and
unemployable Black South Africans continues to
increase exponentially; while HIV/AIDS continues to
eat away the vibrant portion of a palpably restive
Black community.

This situation has given rise to the second fault line
in South Africa. There is real anger among young Black
South Africans. In the early days of the
post-apartheid era, the anger among the lost
generation was directed against fellow South Africans,
fueled by the unrepentant stand of the Inkatha Freedom
Party which felt that the ANC under Mandela has sold
out to the White settlers.

The Black South Africans turned against themselves in those early days in what
many thought would play into the false White
bifurcated vision of the Black personality as
vaunting, aggressive, violent, and resistant to order
and good governance. It was a mini-apocalypse as young
Black South Africans turned against each other in an
orgy of violence and blood-letting. Their passion and
hope for a new and prosperous country was not balanced
with a delayed gratification that demanded the
necessary sacrifice and enduring the inevitable pain
that come with moving from hope to achievement.

Another reality that prepared the grounds for the
present crisis is the violence in South Africa as a
whole. South Africa is a very violent country, indeed
the most violent country in Africa and second to
Brazil in the rate of violent crime globally. Almost
everyone has access to guns, machetes, or the panga.
These weapons are easily made by the many blacksmiths
and local manufacturers who in the immediate past,
secretly produced and armed Black South Africans in
the liberation battle against the White supremacists.
Thus, with a low self-esteem, lacking any education,
fueled by crumbling social structures, deprived of any
sense of purpose, and with no clear signs of progress
or self or group transcendence over the mounting
social and economic challenges of the day, the young

A biting absolute poverty always leads to violence,
but poverty does not legitimize violence. But the
logic of peace and reconciliation which is being
promoted in the various youth camps run by the Tutu
Peace foundation in many provinces in South Africa is
not being bought by young South Africans who are
uneducated, sick, hungry, angry, and whose hopes are
fading as they see the receding horizons of hope and
meaning. These angry but vibrant young South Africans
reveal a thin tipping point of the searing tinder box
on which the Rainbow nation has been sitting for a
long time.

The violence of Black South Africans against the over
3 million Black migrants from Zimbabwe, Nigeria,
Rwanda, Mozambique, Kenya, Malawi etc is the symptom
of a deeper social and economic malaise in South
Africa. A country that is internally at war with
herself cannot produce citizens who are at peace with
foreigners. In the past, the native Black South
Africans saw the White settlers take over their land
with its wealth and fortune, and subsequently
subjected Blacks to internal slavery for more than a
century and half.

Today, the Black South Africans
faced with a shattered social system and decaying
economic structures, and wallowing in the filthy
squalor of want in the midst of wealth, see in the new
'settler migrants' a new threat to their survival. The
hostility of the native South Africans to fellow
Blacks is another reflection of the lack of
integration within the South African society.

It also points to the many wounded hearts and heads that need
a more realistic social engineering and an organic
healing of memory beyond the highly publicized truth
and reconciliation commission. There are millions of
Black South Africans who are losing hope in the new
reality ushered in by Black majority rule. These are
the ones who killed Lucky Dube, they are the ones who
see Tabo Mbeki as elitist and will love to see his

These are the ones who are rooting for Zuma
because he appears to be one with them even if he
carries a moral albatross. These Blacks find new forms
of expression through violence against fellow Blacks
in Pretoria, Diepsloot, and Alexandra and through
uncontrollable violent crimes and drugs.

The streets will soon be cleaned of the burnt corpses
and damaged cars, houses and stalls, but something
deeper is burning in South Africa that needs to be
recovered: Hope is burning in South Africa. A new
narrative is needed in South Africa that should seek
the reconciliation of the Black South Africans with

The typical Black South African is
homeless not in a physical sense of the absence of
houses, but at a deeper existential level. They are
suffering from an absence of the inner fulfillment and
self-contentment that arise spontaneously from one's
general condition of being at peace with oneself, with
one's culture, one's nation and with other people and
the world of nature and the supernatural.

This is a
task which Mandela began but which Mbeki has ignored
to the peril of his country and the entire Black race.
Reconciliation in South Africa can only be real when
the feuding ethnic Black nationalities come to terms
with themselves and the new identity and reality that
today's South Africa presents. This demands a
commitment to distributive, commutative, and social
justice, which reweaves the licking nets of economic
and social equilibrium in South Africa. South Africa
should be home to all Africans because when the
dignity of the Black person was insulted and abused by
apartheid, Africans everywhere felt humiliated and
degraded. The conquest of freedom in South Africa was
the result of the cumulative anger and activism by
Africans everywhere supported by men and women of
goodwill all over the world. But today the freedom
that is lacking in South Africa and the rest of the
continent is the freedom every citizen should have to
pursue their ordered ends and attain a measure of
human and cultural fulfillment.

The condition of South Africa today is clear and
simple: This is a nation in dire need of
reconciliation and wrenching in the heat of historical
injustice. Until this is done, no one is safe in that
troubled land, especially Black South Africans and
Blacks from outside South Africa. This reality should
remind Africans of another truth which we often
ignore: Africans from the African continent need
reconciliation with who they are and with their fellow

It amazes me how many of us Africans living
in Western countries assume that rights and
privileges, equality and fair treatment from foreign
countries are simply ours to claim, if we cannot have
them in our respective countries. How many of us who
complain when we suffer racism abroad can say that we
have overcome racial and ethnic blinkers? We expect
White people in the Western world to accept us, grant
us residence permit, citizenship, jobs, and other
claims and prerogatives. We expect to prosper on
foreign soils, as long as we work hard or as long as
we play the game. Indeed, many of us leave Nigeria and
live abroad because we expect better life abroad and
to find a true and peaceful home in the Western world.
We cannot find a home abroad if we cannot find it 'at

Unfortunately, many of us Nigerians in spite of our
education and famed religious grandstanding still
carry a heavy baggage of bias and prejudice based on
ethnic groupings. We are thus held internally captive
because of acquired or inherited untested time-crusted
categorizations and platitudes about people outside
our visible cultural or ethnic or class identities.
Even among the same ethnic group, there are bias,
prejudices, profiling, and hatred based on clannish
considerations and state of origin. How integrated is
Nigerian society? Nigeria like most other African
countries is in dire need of integration.

The Pan-Africanists of the early 20th century had as
their motto, a "Back to Africa" campaign. They were
driven by an uncritical innocent idealism that Africa
is home to all Africans. It should be true then and
should be true even in our times. How wrong the
Pan-Africanists were to think that the diasponic
movement to far flung territories by people of African
descent could be resolved through a return to Mother
Africa, our true home.

Is it not a tragedy that Africa
is no longer a home for Africans except when they flee
abroad or when they fly to the small and shrinking
safety of their small ethnic nationalities or
nationally defined ethnic identities? Is it not a
shame that Blacks are killing fellow Blacks in African
land, replicating the cycle of violence and decay that
are so often the case in the Black neighborhoods of
Toronto, Chicago, Houston, New York, Paris, Marseille
and Brescia? Cry beloved ancestors!