(By Kay Aderibigbe)
This issue requires that I deplore a didactic tone (teaching) and also, be a bit pedantic (concerned with minor details). I may have to dwell on the contemporary, ecological and fundamental factors that aided the outburst and continuous recurrence of attacks on black foreigners in South Africa simply because, “every thinker, even the most abstract, is deeply influenced by the circumstance of his day” (J. Petrov Plamenatz,1966 p.9)
To start with, the incidence of killing of blacks in South Africa does not fit into the definition of xenophobia, rather, it is known as blackophobia; with acute Nigeriaphobia. This is because those that are being targeted and killed from year 2000 till date are blacks with special concentration on Nigerians. The situation has been condemned, justified and evaluated through various literatures from different quarters in the last few days. But to my utmost amazement, despite the razzmatazz by diplomats, academics, politicians and analysts none of these analyses has produced or suggested a laudable solution to the matter. Instead, various commentators speak from ethnocentric perspectives, talk about history, apportioned blames, proffer partial/temporary or no solution then draw the curtain on the matter.
For the sake of everyone and the intended future victims of this type of attack, I am going to break the issue into themes (thematic approach), narrow down the scope into topical units and draw conclusions on what I thought would be the best possible solution.
Quoting Mrs Neledi Pandor, South Africa’s foreign affairs minister, “my countrymen believe Nigerians are harming our youths”. This very statement encompasses those issues espoused as the basis for the deep-seated hatred which resulted into the attacks. Let us assume the allegations of drug crime and human trafficking have been substantiated, does that justify the savagery and babaric attacks on anyone in a country where law exists? What happened to the police as an institution? Is the head of the police also conniving with Nigerians? What is the fuction of their judiciary? If rape cases, homicide and HIV/AIDS remain at its peak in South Africa without the local populace bating their eyelids in shame, then the attacks on Nigerians and other blacks in my opinion is nothing but pure hatred and intolerance.
If drug crime is the yardstick for killing Nigerians in South Africa then, we could as well say that some South Americans in the USA ought to have been killed for masterminding the importation of drugs into the USA. One good case study that will reveal how South Africa has failed to manage development in the 21st century is the recent arrest of 80 Nigerian fraudsters by FBI. Why didn’t Americans lynch them? Why were they not mobbed or burnt alive by victims of scam? That is the difference between a nation that has fine-tuned development and a society that is still grappling with the rudiments of social mobilization.
Talking about Nigeria and why we have numerous people moving out of the country in search of greener pastures, and in most cases, found of not properly conducting themselves in foreign lands is basically due to long years of economic decay and social disarticulation caused by leadership failure. This is why we are at the receiving end of so many maltreatments and abuses across the globe. The same leadership failure was at play when Nigeria government spent billions of dollars in helping South Africa out of apartheid rule but failed to negotiate what Nigeria should get in return like the way Libya and Cuba did before April 27, 1994.
Now that our anti-apartheid $61bn efforts has been declared a waste, can Nigeria sever diplomatic ties with the ‘rainbow nation’?. The answer is no. At least for now, it is affirmatively no. Why can’t we? “The available statistics from the Nigerian high commission in Pretoria showed that over 800,000 Nigerians are legally living in South Africa” – Geoffrey Onyema, Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, (Punch, Friday 6, 2019). Another reason is that there are over twenty (20) South African businesses in Nigeria; ranging from banking, telecoms, distilling to merchandising. You should know what that means in terms of employment. Also, a yearly estimate of about $3.83bn foreign exchange earnings comes into Nigeria from South Africa (World Trade Report, 2018 p.16). Considering the insignificant less than 1% revenue of $514m Nigeria contributes to South Africa’s wealth in terms of import, I think they would not feel the heat if we boycott their products.
According to South Africa’s defense minister, Novisiwe Mapisa, “nothing can be done about the nature of the attack because it is based on anger”. It is glaring from the above assertion that more blacks will still be attacked and killed in the nearest future. What can we do to at least reduce the effect of this crisis and eventually put a permanent stop to it?.
Since the failures of different economies in Africa was the reason for the influx of black population into South Africa, then, it is sacrosanct we organize enabling economies around Africa in order to encourage Africans stay in their countries of origin and harness local resources to cater for themselves. It may not seem easy but the best possible way to go about it is to adopt the European Union method.
Fisrtly, common currency with strong purchasing power will discourage majority from migrating out of their native countries. For instance, if any unit of African currency can command the same value anywhere within the continent there will be less scramble for scarce resources that are concentrated in one single country while the type of socio-psychological errosion of lives that is happening in South Africa could be avoided. Secondly, a zero tariff system on inter-african commodities will help develop mass market, create employment and break vicious cycle of poverty that is typical of majority of African nations. Thirdly, easy and affordable movement of people, goods and services within Africa through a web of rail links will hasten the socio-economic decongestion of a place like South Africa where other blacks fellows are not welcomed.
The icing on the cake for this type of remodelled African union will be the adoption of a policy that looks like the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 by the European Union. With such treaty, Africans can regulate immigration, labour, weight, security, domestic cum foreign affairs and judicial system on a parallel line without misplacing indigenous cultures and value systems.
It is a pity that Nigeria that needs African union of this type the most is the same country dragging everyone behind from enacting the necessary policies. The irony of the matter is that the same Nigeria and South Africa that are at loggerheads now are also the nations in the best position to push the rest of Africa into adopting a remodelled African Union that can save us from future economic doom and social unrest.
It is the economic success of majority of African nations through supra-national political arrangements, economic Integration and social cohesion that can arrest the menace of xenophobia, blackophobia, exportation of organized crime, chronic unemployment and social tention. As long as South Africa remains relatively ecomically stable, and the rest of Africa are somewhat poor or static, people will continue to migrate into South Africa and there will always be reasons/excuses for the indigenous population that have been ‘apartheidly’ recreated to rise against foreigners in that country.