Commentary: South African government doing nothing for its people


To say I am disappointed by the recent attacks on foreigners in South Africa is an understatement. It saddens me  that South Africans are killing fellow Africans. It is even more disturbing to know the reason behind these atrocious acts is some South Africans feel foreigners in the country are taking their jobs.

At least seven people have been killed and more than 5,000 people were left homeless since the attacks started three weeks ago, according to BBC. The violence and hatred toward immigrants in South Africa resurfaced this year after the  Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini, uttered hate words toward foreigners. The violence erupted after he allegedly told foreigners to “pack their bags and go.”

Since then, there have been several attacks on foreigners and their shops. Years of hard work are wiped away within a night as shops of foreigners are usually looted and burnt down.  Foreigners have no choice than to remain in hiding because even a walk down the street might result in their demise.

The official death toll reported by authorities is seven victims, but videos of incidents put the death toll above that, according to the Zimbabwean Chronicle. Some foreigners were beaten up and  burnt alive. Others were attacked with axes, suffering injuries seen in images which are too graphic to be republished.

By Flickr user GovernmentZA

Immigrants in South Africa now live in fear and other African countries are evacuating their citizens. It has been reported by Al Jazeera news at least 400 Zimbabweans living in South Africa have returned to their home country. Foreigners who could not evacuate are now living in refugee camps in parts of the country, according to BBC News.

In an article by The Guardian, a Zimbabwean immigrant recounts how 15 men broke into her family home, beat her husband with sticks and robbed them of all they had.

“The police came but did not do anything because they are afraid of those boys,” she said.

It appears that the police in South Africa are in support of the attacks, as they fail to stop the violence in many incidents. The South African government have proven ineffective in stopping the violence which has prompted me to believe the hate toward foreigners is institutionalized problem and the people in the government support xenophobia.

This issue of violence toward immigrants was ignored until it received international attention. It was ignored until other African countries decided to take action by evacuating their citizens and threatening to cut ties with South Africa. The attacks are increasing but the perpetrators go unpunished.

But I am most disappointed in South Africans who witness attacks and do or say anything to stop it. It takes some bravery and courage to speak up but when someone chooses to be a bystander instead of an upstander, they lower themselves to the level of the criminals, therefore the people of South Africa have failed other Africans since they do not fight for what is right and protect other Africans.

It is surprising to see this being done in a country that is still suffering the effects of Apartheid. Nelson Mandela spent almost three decades in prison to end Apartheid. Despite the ill-treatment it received from his oppressors, he still preached love and unity. Now it seems all he fought for was in vain because his have people refused to learn the virtue of love and respect and are now killing Africans who helped them fight to end Apartheid.