[DEBATE] : The middle classes are not xenophobes (it's the people in the townships only). Yeh.
tintinyana at gmail.com
Thu May 22 16:41:48 BST 2008
This is published on the M&G's "blog" home. Who edits that? Bigotry
and hate passes as freedom of speech. (read the comments section also)
Opinions that cause trouble
Like everyone else, I am horrified and sickened by the images of
people being burned alive, chased from their homes, and other
unspeakable acts of violence occurring on our doorsteps. However, I am
not filled with a sense of charity in the light of these acts. My
overwhelming response is: foreigners, go home.
Everyone can agree this should never have reached this point. By all
indication, these feelings have been brewing for a long time, with
many analysts surprised its taken this long to reach a point of
explosion. It’s also debatable (as per Ndumiso’s excellent piece on
this issue the other day) what the causes are. I tend to think that
you have to follow the money and the booze. Looting and chaos like
this is often not about any clear political issue, and is simply about
people’s unchecked emotions bubbling over and creating a tolerant
space for criminals and maniacs.
Still, there is one underlying issue with which its easy to
sympathise. A Zimabwean man was interviewed by the BBC the other day.
He is working in South Africa illegally as a driver. When asked
whether he could understand why young South Africans could be angry
with him he seemed baffled. “We are also just trying to make money”,
he said, “Things are bad back home.”
Again, easy to feel gooey eyed at this. But let’s pause for a moment
and understand this. This guy has crossed the border illegally and is
now being given work illegally by a South African citizen with no work
permit. He is, quite specifically, taking a job away from another
South African. That pisses me off, actually.
South Africa doesn’t have the luxury of being generous with our jobs
and our money to foreigners. We have a desperate unemployment problem
here, coupled with Aids and a bewildering array of other causes for
great poverty and misery. We need to focus our resources internally,
uplifting our own population. Foreigners, I’m afraid, most especially
illegal immigrants, need to go home.
I am startled by this incredible outpouring of love and support toward
foreigners, expressed by bloggers, radio talkshow callers and the
media. Again, some part of me understands this as I hear and see the
suffering these people are experiencing. And don’t get me wrong, the
violence is to be condemned in no uncertain terms. At the very least,
as Thabo Mbeki said, these are humans just like us.
But where is the similar outpouring of understanding toward our own
population, the frustration and misery of which has (at least in part)
led to this situation in the first place? It’s a time for less
compassion for foreigners, and more compassion toward our own
starving, struggling, desperate fellow citizens.
We have failed to keep these foreigners out of our borders, that blame
can be laid with the state. But we employ these people — how many
people do you know who have illegal Malawian gardeners or builders or
other labourers? We have created this problem, we have set the ball in
motion leading to this point.
A peaceful resolution is desperately needed. The legal immigrants need
to be differentiated from the illegal ones, but the government needs
as a matter of urgency to send those who have no right to be here,
back home. And the chain emails and Facebook groups trying to raise
money to help these people out need to have a good rethink about
focusing on helping our own people out.
To the foreigners, we need to send a clear message: go home and fix up
your own countries. Even if we’re generous in favour of the MDC,
something like 30-40% of Zimabweans voted for Robert Mugabe again in
the last election, despite everything. That’s no-one’s fault. You
don’t like your dictator, get rid of him, one way or the other. But
don’t have 4 out of 10 of your buddies vote the guy back in, and then
run over the border and make your problems ours.
Or, rather, you are welcome to do that, when we have 95% employment
and are in a position to help. But we’re stretched too thin already.
Sorry for your troubles, but South Africa is not in a position to
assist right now.
tintinyana at gmail.com
“Only intellectuals love poverty. Poor people love luxury” (from a
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