The root causes of xenophobia

The root causes of xenophobia

Fact: colonialism is not to blame for Africa’s current problems but is only the easiest scapegoat to point at when the dilly-dallying debates on the issue of Africa’s prevalent and subtle problems have to be sat down upon at the various conferences and debate sessions.

Colonialism found Africa an already polarised continent and the ‘divide and rule’ policies that granted vast swathes of land to the colonist via the convincing of one tribal group’s superiority over others were easy to implement.
It is not because the colonist was smart that he managed to grant vast tracts of land to himself, the African society was an already tribal entity willing to maliciously give away pieces of land to the foreigner and to steal from the neighbour to give to the foreigner for trinkets.

Before the advent of colonialism, the African was an already genocidal maniac; very racist with tendencies hinged on deep-sat racism and self-hate (for I consider it self-loathing to hate someone of the same skin colour, that lives on the same continent as I do, and whose origins and ancestry are the same as mine).
Poor colonialism is just a scapegoat to justify or to mask the African’s crude behaviours when it comes to the treatment of fellow brothers from the different parts of the continent.

Dale Carnegie asserts that humans are racist by nature, and his opinion is to a large extent very true. However, one may add that the human creature is largely formed of pride, the type of pride based on narcissism, that is, only those that are of the same group, clan, and tribe are considered worthy of the benefits and fruits of the land, the others are better off serving in the serf or beggar class.

Should the ‘other’ (often of the same skin colour) seem to be making some progress, the pride in the individuals or group that considers itself better than the rest does not allow peace to reign, for then the pride gives to jealousy at such a one’s fortune instead of breeding gratitude at the change in the fortunes of that other individual despite the fact that they may even be living in the same community as the jealous freak.

Pride is the cardinal sin, for it is the well from which all of the other sins spring, for out of it comes covetousness, sloth, wrath, envy and others which at the most potent lead to anarchy, for such an individual as that possessed by them cannot think straight and sees violence as the only way to solve their perceived problem. Foreigners are often ostracised in African communities, and why they are stems from the self-hate existent in the African mind.

The tribally hinged attacks in recent history in South Africa were not the first xenophobic attacks, we had seen the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, had seen the carnage in Angola, had seen the Zimbabwean Matabeleland ‘cleansings’, had heard of what occurred in the early 1900’s Herero killings in Namibia, had read of the Lifaqane, and found out why Mwenemutapa of Great Zimbabwe’s kingdom had fallen, why Timbuktu and ancient Egypt had decayed from being centres of civilisation to being mere tourist attractions.

The places and events are many and varied, but though scattered, they carry one root, the African’s hate of another African based on petty trivialities that could in some other society be forgotten for the sake of the welfare and benefit of the whole society.

In other continents and societies, the success of one individual is celebrated irrespective of the race or tribe of such an individual. What is considered is the benefit such a one’s success has on the whole society, for if they were a beggar dependent on state welfare cheques before, their success means that they then become a contributor to the state’s economy, contributing meaningfully for the welfare of the others less fortunate.

The jealousy with which the success of those considered ‘foreign’ despite their being fellow Africans is founded upon a misconception that they ‘steal’ when in fact, they show the way out of the poverty plaguing the continent.
Selling brooms and trinkets is not a wished way to make a living, but the smart man knows that such an individual as that who takes the courage to take it upon their selves to make a living selling what the masses need is worthy of respect. The broom sold cleans the house and saves the buyer the cost of transporting it from the town store. The methods of paying are often based on easy terms, meaning that one can pay for that which they need over a given period and according to the power of their pocket.

It is a lesson on how we should treat each other, but some of us have the audacity to insult such a teacher, accusing him or her of stealing jobs. What jobs is a broom seller stealing? Where can we get the requisite skills that we lack as a continent if not from neighbouring countries within the continent? Who shall do the jobs ‘the local’ detests? There are a thousand questions one can pose on why the foreigner is hated despite the clear benefits of their presence in our midst. Jealousy gets no one anywhere, for it is the type of slow poison that renders the mind catatonic. Rather than hate, one could benefit by learning from the foreign.

The Sesotho adage “Setlhare sa hole se chekoa mohla letšolo” means that what is beneficial may come from far, and the presence of people from other lands means that they bring their wells of knowledge with them, and such knowledge may prove to be of meaningful substance when it comes to tackling local problems. There are a thousand ways to skin a cat, and a thousand answers to answering a single question. Africa has a dearth of relevant knowledge to solve the varying problems it faces on a continuous basis.

There is therefore benefit if we sit down and share solutions to problems that are common on the continent, and this means that fellow brothers and sisters from other parts of the continent may be the carriers of such solutions. We can only get to find such solutions if we embrace rather than ostracise them, limiting them only to the peripheries of society where they constantly feel excluded.

The idiom of expression, “Tšoeu ha li tsoane” means that the Europeans never sell each other out and it stems from the fact that they share and complement each other instead of pulling each other down as is the tendency in African societies.

It is selling each other out if we spend the larger part of our days scheming on each other on the basis of the difference in clan or tribe instead of supporting each other on the basis of our Africanness.
Morena Moshoeshoe I is perhaps the only figure in African society that first saw the benefit of guiding a detribalised society. It did not matter where one came from in his eyes and society, what mattered was whether such a person could contribute meaningfully to the growth and the advancement the growing Basotho nation.

What a lot of us do not know is that his “U se ke ua re ho Moroa, Moroa tooe!” meaning that one should not look upon those they consider foreign with disdain or condescension is what actually gave birth to the Basotho nation and kept it bound together despite its composition of different tribes and clans.
The spear makers were of Zulu origin (Matebele), and they are honoured for their skill as iron-smiths. The wisdom in the last great king on the African continent made him aware that their skill mattered more than their not being his kith or kin.

There was war all around and the armies needed spears in their arsenals, only the foreign iron-smiths from a rival nation had the skill to make the best spears and he took them into his house. There is poverty and unemployment prevalent on the continent and in our local societies, only the ‘foreigner’ from other parts of the continent has the entrepreneurial flair to show us how to get out of poverty and unemployment.

Only pride stands in the way of those individuals that mask their laziness with such statements (excuses) as, “there are no jobs!” when there is in fact something that can be done about the situation. Rather than hate, we should be learning from those that come with solutions from other parts of the continent.

The Rwandan genocide of 1994 became the catalyst for the country to move forward to levels unprecedented, because the Rwandese chose to forget the carnage and see to the rebuilding of their nation and country. The recent xenophobic attacks should become a catalyst to the process of understanding why we should as Africans embrace each other for the sake of the upliftment of the continent out of the beggarhood status.

We beg because we choose not to forget the past, and we beg because we choose to blame colonialism instead of pointing what the real problem is with us as African individuals when it comes to understanding each other.
And so we spend years giving non-issues undivided attention when we should be discussing solutions to the most prevalent problems on the continent, problems that have seen countries go down on their knees and beg for aid at the expense of their sovereignty. Political affiliation is a good thing, but it serves to foment the sad colonial spirit of divide and rule that split an entire continent into smithereens.

Recollecting the pieces of the continent shall require more than just aid, it will need the individual African to understand why there should be so much hate for fellow brothers from the different regions of the continent and to erase it.

It is nonsensical to keep on avoiding issues, for it means that they balloon to proportions where they cannot be dealt with, sort of like raising an elephant in a room until it is bigger than the door and necessitates the smashing of the house down to get it out.
We have been silent for too long on the issue of xenophobia, and I guess that most of the questions asked were irrelevant to the situation. We did not question our own individuality and to find out why we are as we are, accepting evil tendencies as if they are normal behaviours.

It does not make sense why I should feel that someone from another clan or tribe is different when we have intermarried to the extent that the concepts of tribe and clan have lost their sense and being. One should carry the simple understanding that they are not alone, that they may need the presence of the figure they are chiding sometime in the future. History has ensured that we lived together at some point in time, and it therefore does make sense why we should pretend that we never did.

The African that hacks down another on the basis of ‘foreignness’ is a fool that must have been asleep as the years of struggle and exile were still the rule of the day. Pretending that one has not lived in another’s land is in plain terms hypocrisy of the worst kind, the type the possessor of should be subjected to an intense catholic demon exorcism session.

We could write endless justifications for the present state of affairs on the continent, but the one truth is that our self-hate is the root cause to all the problems the continent is currently facing. Had the African embraced their pan-Africanism in fact and not only in word as done in the immediate post-independence period, this continent would not be stuck where it is at the present moment in time. There is nothing wrong with someone being foreign; all of us have got different reasons for leaving the lands of our birth for other parts of the world.

In fact, there is no natural law against migration; one can go anywhere they want to on the continent and across world. The only thing left is for us is to face facts as they are and begin to understand the simple fact that there will always be someone foreign amongst us.

Moshoeshoe I knew of this fact, and this is the main reason why he ended up with this nation, which is in fact the Rainbow Nation that came well before the South African one born in the Nelson Mandela era. The pride with which we regard ourselves should be granted to those of us that come from other parts of the graceful continent.

Tšepiso S. Mothibi

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