Instead of dealing with what the Government correctly or incorrectly termed ‘acts of criminality’, the Government officials were reported as to have said that they will ‘investigate allegations that some of the foreign national had entered the Republic illegally. This kind of response sounded strange but was very typical of the jaundiced judgments of South African officials during the debacle.
One would wonder if the Home Affairs Department checks and certifies those ‘foreigners’ doing business around Soweto as legal, will they have to put a mark on their business place to inform the locals that such persons are legally in the country and should not be targeted for looting when next they decide to ‘deal’ with illegal aliens? Do all foreigners have to wear an armband (a la in Nazi Germany) with the inscription ‘legal alien’ for identification and protection in the townships? Was the declaration to check the influx of illegal aliens into the Townships during a ‘criminal’ looting and expulsion campaign a responsible statement at the period?
Xenophobia thrives in South Africa because those who are supposed to do something to stem the ugly trend are usually those who politically speak from the sides of their mouths for the fear of losing political support base.
It is a shame that the Government does not explain to the populace the different statuses of people living in South Africa and the legal implications of their statuses. The meaning and implication of citizenship granted to persons of foreign birth is lost in the quest to placate political support bases. Majority of South Africans see ‘all’ non-South African Africans as foreign and do not understand that most are legally residents and citizens of the country. In fact, I have heard locals telling other African citizens of foreign birth that they are not South Africans and can never be South Africans. Such hostility and brazen rejection are never meted to peoples of European or Indian decent -showing that Aphrophobia is on the rise in a country that is predominantly African.
During the last general elections, a reporter mischievously quoted ‘Nigerians ‘as wanting to participate in the South African elections, without explaining to the public who those Nigerians were. The reporter never mentioned the platform on which such demands were made but mischievously wanted to whip up ill feelings against Nigerians in the country. To lay credence to the reporter’s story, he had to call the spokesperson for the department of international relations and cooperation- Mr. Clayson Monyela to get his position on his phantom ‘Nigerian demand’.
Surprisingly, the Government’s spokesperson did not help matters as he actually gave an ‘official response’ to the story, dismissing the concocted demands as being “ridiculous” “unacceptable” and “intolerable”. One would have expected the honorable spokesperson to use the occasion to educate the populace that some Nigerians will actually vote and did eventually vote as citizens of the Republic during those elections. He should have mentioned that though foreigners cannot vote citizens can vote as the requirement for participating in the elections as constitutionally and statutorily stipulated are; being a citizen above 18yeras old and possess a have a green, bar-coded ID book; smart card ID; or valid Temporary Identity Certificate (TIC).
So such actions and inactions from Government make mockery of the word citizenship. Government officials should defend the rights of all citizens as mandated by the constitution and should deal fairly with every citizen. Further classification of African citizens of foreign birth as ‘citizens but not citizens enough’ creates problems and confusion. There has to be a campaign to orientate people that every African citizens of foreign birth in possession of a green ID did not get it via the backyard. Government should stop tacitly inciting violence against the so-called foreign population by their inaction. Positive orientation and unequivocal condemnation and punishment of criminality can curb Xenophobia and save South Africa the notoriety of being Afrophobic.
Most immigrants love this country and would like to be part of the solution and not problems for the society. Government should pursue integration of new citizens with all sincerity.