To say one is saddened by the gory pictures of destruction of lives and properties in a democratic society just because the victims are fellow Africans is an understatement. To say that people would lose family members just because they are migrants is equally disheartening. Perhaps, the unemployed South African youth should take lessons from history and how other Africans stood by them during the apartheid. Xenophobic attacks are not supposed to be a "thank you" gift to the continent.
During the apartheid regime, civil servants in Nigeria donated a percentage of their salaries and, while students voluntarily and joyfully skipped lunch in school to be able to contribute to the “Mandela Tax” Fund to financially empower South Africans battle apartheid at its most vicious time.
Nigeria actively supported the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) with an annual subvention, from the 1960s all through to the 1970s for the struggle. And even in the post-apartheid era, Nigeria under President Olusegun Obasanjo contributed handsomely to the Southern Africa Relief Fund (SAFR). And all contributions came to black South African organizations in millions of dollars.
Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho as well as those further north: Angola, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania, all played a vital role in supporting the African National Congress (ANC) when it was proscribed. Many ANC leaders at the time took refuge in these countries.
Zambian soldiers for instance, protected the ANC from South African attacks in 1985, during the party’s national conference. Botswana, a neighboring country, became the preferred conduit for the ANC to get its members into and out of the country effortlessly.
ANC leaders crossed the border into Lesotho under the cover of night for meetings, returning to South Africa the next morning. The small African country was was a refuge in the period of struggle.
After the student uprising in South Africa in June 1976, many of young activists fled into Lesotho. Its government made provision for all young South African exiles to receive an education and 25% of its state scholarships were offered to exiled South Africans.
At a time like this when the continent needs to unite and forge ahead, the growing wave of nationalism is the least to be desired. Xenophobic attacks is a betrayal of trust, and the great Madiba, known for uniting the country will look back and say, are these the same people I sacrificed for?" A proactive government can make the latest attacks the last by dealing decisively with perpetrators. Until justice is done, crime of this nature will continue to persist.
Header Image Credit: Daily Maverick