“Do not ill-treat or take advantage of foreigners who are living in your land. Treat them as you would a fellow- brother, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
The Republic of South Africa; popularly known as the rainbow nation. A term coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu because of the multi-cultural nature of the South African society. A society; practically torn into shreds because of man’s injustice to man.
When I think of the rainbow, one thing comes to mind. A promise that God made to man that he would not destroy the world again. I believe Archbishop Desmond Tutu would be heartbroken that a nation, after suffering years of apartheid, would tarnish its image and cast it back into the dark ages.
The rainbow wasn’t only a promise, it was a reminder. A reminder, that God made a promise to man and has kept. South Africans, your ‘‘rainbow’’ flag should serve as a reminder. O ye rainbow nation, have you forgotten so soon? Have you forgotten so soon that you were once strangers in your own land? Have you forgotten so soon the blood, sweat and tears spilled for your emancipation?
I watched videos and I have seen the level of ignorance that has been exhibited by some South African people. Notice the word ‘‘some’’. I picked my words carefully for one particular reason.
I have worked with South Africans, I have schooled with South Africans and I have a few as friends. I can say without a shadow of doubt, that they are amazing people. I have come to realise that in this world that it takes on bad person, to tarnish the reputation of a group of people. I know all South Africans are not xenophobic. It is just as Chinua Achebe said in Things Fall Apart ‘‘if one finger brought oil, it soiled the others’’.
What have the foreigners done to deserve this treatment? What have NIGERIANS done to deserve such treatment?
Maybe it is imperative that I discuss some issues as it relates to history. As an independent nation in 1960, Nigeria, as a matter of argument, had no reason to make South Africa, the centre of its foreign policy. In fact, Africa as a whole, was the centre of Nigeria’s foreign policy.
Nigeria between 1960 and 1988, played a key role in ensuring that South Africa was free from Apartheid both at its national and regional level by taking some of the following steps:
- After the Sharpeville massacre in March 1960, the Sardauna decided that white South Africans, would no longer be employed in the Northern region and called for the imposition of economic sanctions Against Pretoria by Commonwealth countries;
- The regime of General Gowon, was at the forefront, advocating for the Liberation of at least one colonial territory every year such as Angola, Guinea-Bissau etc. which played a role, albeit indirectly, in preparing South Africa for the eradication of Apartheid, and I dare to say, Independence;
- During Murtala Mohammed’s regime in the 1970’s, Nigeria defied the USA and Henry Kissinger, by advocating for the MPLA in Angola, and was vocal in its support for the liberation of South Africa;
- A non-governmental anti-apartheid movement, the National Committee against Apartheid (NACAP) was established in 1976. This was led by Late Mallam Aminu Kano and the aim was to mobilize popular support for progressive policies on Southern Africa through symposia, dissemination of information, and organization of rallies.
In the spirit of African brotherhood, Nigeria made sure that South Africa should be a beneficiary of independence just as Nigeria was in 1960. In the spirit of African brotherhood, South Africa has paid us back with hatred. This sums up the price Nigeria has paid for being a big brother in Africa.
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996, has some Bill of Rights. In particular, it states in Section 7(1) that ‘‘This Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.’’
Human dignity, doesn’t look at the colour of your skin or judge you based on where you’re. This is why South Africans have a moral duty to be their brother’s keeper. The rights of foreigners should be respected not just because of the economic activities they have engaged in South Africa, most importantly, due to the sanctity of human life.
Section 9(3) states ‘‘The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.’’
9(4) states that ‘‘No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds in terms of subsection (3)’’.
In looking at this section of the South African constitution, one thing comes to mind. It was an interview between a BBC correspondent and a South African. She asked if he was going to kill her because she was a foreigner who worked and lived in South Africa, and his answer was NO! Why you may ask? He said she wasn’t amongst the people doing the bad stuff.
Now I ask. What makes a white life more precious than a black life? Isn’t it the constitution that states that South African people shouldn’t discriminate?
I would conclude by quoting Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Racism, xenophobia and unfair discrimination have spawned slavery, when human beings have bought and sold and owned and branded fellow human beings as if they were so many beasts of burden.