The orgy of Afrophobic violence in South Africa this week leaves a sour taste in the mouth and pushes backwards efforts by leaders in the SADC region as well as on the African continent to promote integration as a way of creating wealth and promoting development.
There is therefore an urgent need by South African leaders to put a stop to the violence and ensure that this does not recur. In fact, it is quite disturbing that the attacks against poor Africans working in that country who are trying to eke out a living continue to recur, with seemingly no solution in sight from that country’s leaders. Granted, unemployed South Africans need jobs, but we do not believe barbarism and killing fellow Africans is the way to create those jobs.
The political leadership in that country certainly have a mountain to climb in order to inculcate into their fellow citizens the need for tolerance of fellow Africans. They must stop turning a blind eye or tacitly approving the attacks on foreigners. It is sad that the Afrophobic attacks come at a time SADC leaders are at the forefront of promoting integration and industrialisation in the region.
Integration, by its very nature, means states agree to co-operate and work closely to achieve peace, stability and wealth. SADC’s regional integration policy is aimed at seeing the 16-member countries of the regional bloc, including South Africa, coming together to achieve peace, stability and economic development. With South Africa being the regional economic power house, this means people from poor countries in the region and beyond will naturally descend on that country in search of jobs. This is not perculiar to this part of the world as wealthier nations attract immigrants from poorer neighbours.
SADC’s rallying call and motto is “Towards a common future”. This means member states share a common goal and a common vision to transform the region and the lives of their peoples.
Thus member states are expected to work together in projects and programmes that ensure that this common vision is achieved. This means countries must collaborate on identified projects that are aimed at transforming the region’s economies. This message must be taught to all citizens across the region so as to promote tolerance. Failure to spread this message will continue to see put a wedge between citizens, pitting citizens from rich countries against those from richer and more developed nations.
But we do not believe that killing fellow Africans and destroying their property will create the peace, stability and wealth that the region seeks to have. This goes against our African principles and the spirit of Ubuntu.
At the continental level, African leaders early this year signed the agreement to set up the continental free trade area which will create a market of close to 3 billion people on the continent who will be free to trade among themselves to create wealth. The AfCFTA envisages the free movement of people and goods and across borders. It also envisages peace on the continent for this to take place. The orgy of violence in South Africa, and retaliatory actions in Nigeria and elsewhere across the continent, therefore negates all the this and threatens to put a wedge between Africans. It threatens to pit South Africans versus the rest of Africa. We do not believe this is how things should be.
We believe in the creation of wealth in the SADC region that would enable all the 300 million of the region to live better lives. Africans must be engaged on how to exploit their natural resources for their own benefit, not fighting and killing each other.
As Tanzanian President and SADC Chairperson, John Magufuli, put it the SADC Summit in Dar es Salaam a few weeks ago, the SADC region is not poor, but rich. The region is endowed with almost all the minerals found on this planet. The question, which we have asked several times, is who is benefitting from these resources? Is it the migrants from Angola, DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia, Zambia and Zimbabwe who are stealing the wealth of South Africa? Certainly not.
South Africans need to tolerate fellow Africans trying to eke a living in their country. Surely, they cannot live in isolation of the rest of the continent and world. If there are foreign nationals with no proper documentation or those involved in criminal activity, then it is the duty of the government to deal with that issue.