Let’s get itright! It’s the poor Africans that are up in arms against the poor in theguise of xenophobia! Rich South Africans and Nigerian businesses do also crybut hardly on account of xenophobic attacks on each others’ enterprisesand lives. At the height of the MTN’s scandalous SIMs infractions,which criminally fuelled insurgency in the North East, MTN masts were neverpulled down but the communication giant was rightly slammed with some N330billion fine by the National Communication Commission, NCC in 2015.Poor-on-Poor xenophobic violence and looting which recently engulfed parts of Gauteng, Johannesburg, Cape Town and other cities of SouthAfrica with attendant cycle of reprisal attacks on South Africa’s businesses in Nigeria points to deep crisis of governance and leadership in Africa. In this case, one indifferent approach toconflicts involving the poor Africans, another rule for big businessesand private capital. SA’s President Cyril Ramaphosa belatedly addressed thenation on the fourth day, (Thursday night) on the crisis which reportedlyclaimed some double digit African lives (almost some 1000 since2008!). You don’t assuage grief and prevent conflagration of reprisalanger with unacceptable slow response to an unacceptable serial madness, whichxenophobic populism has tuned to be.
In 2008, late Nelson Mandela (though in retirement!) together with his Foundationpromptly and spiritedly damned “Africans-on-Africans” violence. A content analysis of the 20-minute address broadcast ofPresident Cyril Ramaphosaon TV indicated that it was inspired by everworsening domestic SA’s violence against women than a decade long orchestratedassault on African immigrants. Thousands of protesters had marched onParliament two days in a row demanding a more urgent response to violenceagainst women, the recent casualty being the murdered University of Cape Town(UCT) student Uyinene Mrwetyana. I just returned from CapeTown and Durban. Ibear witness that there is a perception that President Cyril Ramaphosa justrecently elected is fatigued on arrival. “There can be no excuse for theattacks on the homes and businesses of foreign nationals, just as there can beno excuse for xenophobia or any other form of intolerance,” Ramaphosa said.He added further: “Equally, there is no justification for the lootingand destruction of businesses owned by South Africans”. And that is thereal problem! Are Africans “Foreign nationals” in Africa, South of Africa? ANCis the oldest political party on the continent formed in 1912. It was so-namedAfrican National Congress, (not South African National Congress) by thefounding fathers who are all Africans. The Freedom Charter opens with thedeclaration that: “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black andwhite”. Same with SA’s celebrated 1994 non-racial, non-sexist democraticconstitution. What has then happened to pan-Africanism just 25 years apartheidwas proclaimed constitutionally dead in 1994? Are Malawians, Ruwandans andNigerians foreigners in Africa? Are Afrikaners and British moreAfrican than Zimbabweans and Somalis?
Kwame Nkrumah, onthe 24 May 1963 envisioned a continental Union of African States, whenOrganization of African Unity (OAU) was formed. Kwame Nkrumah, a key proponentof OAU must be alarmed in his grave to hear that Africans in 2019 are erectingnew Apartheid walls against each other. As far back as 1973 Europeans copied Nkrumah’s idea, signed the treaty of Romethat led to the formation of European Union (EU). Today, Europe parades commoncitizenship, common market, common currency and common front against individualAfrican countries with adverse implication for worsening terms of trade. Morefrightening was the alleged official sponsorship of xenophobia by some SA’spoliticians and leaders. In a statement issued,“Right2Know” a non-governmental Organization, NGO, said itheld Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini andRamaphosa personally responsible for the violence. Witness the group: “Therecent xenophobic attacks on non-South Africans can be directly linked to callsby politicians to ‘defend the sovereignty of the state’ and confirms adangerous emerging trend of xenophobic populism which leads to attacks onforeign nationals. The xenophobic intent was, and still is, very clear. Itwanted to do what the state had failed to do: remove foreigners from the city,”the statement read. President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to South Africa nextmonth is very timely. After the recent diplomatic heat, President Buhari mustshed light on the new reformed relations between the two biggest economies inAfrica. The President must do some quality control of the current incoherent official responses informed by legitimate anger against senselessxenophobic attacks. It’s time for an informed foreign policy and strategy.President Buhari must offer some concrete initiatives that would facilitatemovement of labour and capital in Africa on the continent within the context ofthe new African Continental Free Trade Agreement, ACFTA, the Constitutive Actof the Africa Union (AU) launched in 2002 by the Heads of State and Governmentof the Member States of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and of courseNEPAD. Where President Cyril Ramaphosa miserably failed in initiatives,President Buhari must make a difference. The point cannot be overstated: AU wasinspired by the noble ideals of African unity, solidarity, cohesion andcooperation among the peoples of Africa and African States. President Buharimust also offer to urgently revive Nigeria-South Africa bi-NationalCommission. The commission must address all issues between the two countries.It must also involve organized businesses and organized labour. So far therelations between the two biggest economies has been transactional betweenbusinesses driven by profits, profits and profits, not the PEOPLE. President Buharimust champion peoples-to-people relations with eye on investment, trade andmass job creation in the two countries. Both SA and Nigeria need a newdevelopment agenda from the existing neo-liberal market economy which hasproduced almost 60 per cent youth unemployment, 70 per cent in poverty,shameless inequality and the great-divide between the two countries’ 1per cent super rich and 99 per cent poor. Xenophobia will persist as long asmany Africans hunt for limited indecent jobs as industries close down. SA andNigeria are the only two countries better positioned to ensure theimplementation of AU’s AGENDA 2063, Africa’s strategicframework aimed to delivering on inclusive and sustainabledevelopment.