Yesterday 24th February 2017 saw widespread demonstrations in South Africa, they were purportedly meant to be peaceful marches against illegal immigrants resident in SA, however, in some instances they turned violent.
Condemnations against immigrants in general have been rife for some time. Immigrants have on many occasions been blamed for all manner of social ills and criminal activities such as drug dealing, and prostitution. In a country, whereby youth unemployment is extraordinarily high, immigrants are seen as taking locals' jobs. Today I (Thulani Nkala -TN) was lucky to have an opportunity to talk to Mr Yanga Mhluzi (YM) the Public Relations Officer of the Siphesakhe Youth Organisation, which is famous for its theatre play called uLoyiko, a play about the gukurahundi genocide which happened in Zimbabwe against the people of Matebeleland. Mr Mhluzi is a South African national.
TN: Thank you Mr Mhluzi for the opportunity to talk to you regarding the demonstrations against foreigners which some people call xenophobic marches.
YM: You are welcome, it is my pleasure to talk to you.
TN: Allow me to go straight into the heart of our discussion, what are your views regarding the demonstrations against foreigners?
YM: I am of the view that it is every South African's democratic right to demonstrate, petition and express their views.
TN: So are you personally against foreigners in SA?
YM: That is not true, you are mixing issues and simplifying things. Here we are talking about my views about demonstrations which are a constitutional right in South Africa. Let me try to explain how I see this, over a long period of time South Africa has had to contend with an influx of legal and illegal immigrants. The public anger has been simmering for a long time, therefore I cannot dismiss their concerns, however, I am against violent demonstrations and I have realised that some people took advantage of the demonstrations to attack foreigners, other fellow black Africans for that matter. The members of public have no means to help them distinguish between an illegal immigrant and a legal one. Some illegal immigrants are here due to political persecution in their countries, this is certainly the case with the Ndebele people from Zimbabwe. When Zimbabwe attained its independence in 1980 it started persecuting the Ndebele people, the government went as far as committing a genocide against the Ndebele people. This is crucial information which many South Africans are not aware of. If South Africans were aware of what happened to Ndebeles and what is still happening to them in Zimbabwe they would not dare utter a single word against a so called Ndebele immigrant. These people had to run away to survive, the political space was shut for them, they were denied employment opportunities, denied education opportunities and they have been treated as outcasts or second class citizens in their country.
I want to make this very clear, my use of Ndebele as an example does not mean that I would condone any attack of other nationalities, however, there is a worrying developing trend which I do not understand. I do not understand why Shonas are here with their discriminatory tendencies.
TN: I am tempted to ask you about the discriminatory tendencies you allude to?
YM: I am not making this up, if you look closely you will realise that South Africa has always had immigrants from various countries. But there were no xenophobic attacks, people lived in harmony. These attacks coincided with the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy which led to the influx of the egotistical Shona immigrants into the country. We have come to realise that where ever they are employed they ensure that whatever employment opening available is filled by one of their own a tendency which they are widely known for in Zimbabwe. This is nepotism we do not need in South Africa.
TN: You sound as if you would approve xenophobic attacks against them.
YM: Absolutely not, however, South Africans should resist their evil tendencies, of course I cannot be against any peaceful demonstrations against them. They must learn to be humble and know how to live with other people.
TN: What do you think are the fundamental causes of xenophobic attacks?
YM: I think I have given you the reasons which cause these attacks, however, I have also observed a troubling angle to these attacks.
TN: Do you mind sharing with us?
YM: If you realise you will find that in SA there are nationalities from many different countries, including White and Asian people, however, the attacks are never aimed at Asians or Whites. These are the symptoms of a colonial and apartheid era. People have learned to hate themselves and they mistake this to sophistication. Some of our people do not even admit that they are Africans, this kind of psychological brainwashing is dangerous because it leads to xenophobia. You know what, self-hate is dangerous because it evokes feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. These are twin evils which make Africans not to progress forward.
TN: I wish I had more time, I would chat with you the whole day, nonetheless, thanks very much for your time.
YM: You are welcome, any time Sir.
That was Yanga Mhluzi of Siphesakhe Youth Organisation, we also understand that next month Siphesakhe will be demonstrating in Johannesburg against Robert Mugabe's gukurahundi genocide. We will talk to Mr Mhluzi again nearer the time.