South Africa is seen by many as one of the most developed African countries, if not the best of them all. Nigerians that have visited the country do not waste time to praise her infrastructural development. In fact, some believe that Nigerian government needs to emulate its South African counterpart. I don’t blame anybody for this, after all our infrastructure is nothing to write home about.
But this comparison reduced significantly after the 2015 xenophobic attack in South Africa. The slogan then changed from “You need to visit South African” to “If you visit South Africa”. Many people started expressing their fears about having anything to do with the country. I believe that was when Nigerians realised that all that glitters isn’t gold.
The problem with South Africa isn’t infrastructural development. Their problem is human development. If you ask me, I’ll say that much attention has been paid to the provision of basic and aesthetic amenities without a corresponding attention given to the psychological, mental and economic development of the citizens. The result of this is that the country attracts foreigners, who come with their innovations and skills that are lacking in her natives. Since these natives couldn’t compete with the foreigners, they lost their jobs, customers and businesses to them (the foreigners). This only aggravated the South Africans, who showed their disapproval of their foreign competitors through hostility.
I believe another reason behind these series of xenophobic attacks is the apartheid. The residue of the intense racism experienced by South Africans still left a bitter taste in their mouths. It could be that they still see every foreigner as a segregationist that will resurrect the spirit of apartheid and enslave them in their own country. Or that they believe that other countries still practice apartheid. Honestly, I strongly believe that South Africans have consciously and unconsciously become racists, and dangerous ones at that.
But racists don’t really have to destroy lives and properties to send their messages home, do they? All they have to do is to exclude those prejudiced against from social and economic activities. But it looks like the South Africans couldn’t succeed in doing just that, so they resolved to the use of violence. In other words, South Africans are volatile in nature. They can explode any time; all they need is a little inconsequential excuse to go off.
Each time I look at the South African xenophobic cases, I don’t see any phobia. I only see a group of people whose mindsets have been programmed to hold other people responsible for their challenges and failures. The worst thing here is that they use violence to send their messages home without waiting to see if their applied method yielded any good result.
I am not in a position to say this, but I believe these people have been fed with wrong and dangerous information about the causes of their social and economic problems. This means that attention has to be paid to what they are taught in schools and what is circulated within their society. Something is fanning their hatred against non-natives.
The South African government and natives may be relaxed because at the moment, only the non-natives are receiving this negative attention. But they need to understand that it is just a matter of time before this attention will turn around and face them. Yes, these South African thugs and ‘human weapons’ will, one day, get tired of harassing the foreigners and turn to face their own people. The worst thing is that by then, the world will just sit down, sip a hot cup of tea, and watch the drama unfold in South Africa. No one will come to their aid. This nightmare can only be averted if something is done, and done immediately.
What the natives of South Africa need to do right now is to learn how to develop and improve on themselves. They should stop blaming anyone for their poverty and unemployment, except themselves. The time and energy they spend on looking for scapegoats should be channelled towards self-development. I will suggest that they do the following, and more, to help themselves out of their bad situations:
a Dispelling their Fears: Like I stated earlier, South Africans are still afraid that apartheid may come back to haunt them. They need to let go of this fear and live freely. However, if they see any thing that shows that this monster, named apartheid, is still trying so hard to come back into their society, they should be civilised enough to voice it out. Violence will only send out negative signals to their helpers.
- Skills Acquisition: One thing I like about we Nigerians is that we never stop learning. The natives of South Africa need to emulate that. They should take advantage of the presence of foreigners to acquire as much skills as possible. This will help them greatly in their career pursuit. At least, they can then have what it takes to compete in the labour market.
- Entrepreneurship: If Nigerians can establish businesses in South Africa and thrive, I don’t see why the natives can’t. The fact that some people’s businesses are doing well shows that the government provided an enabling environment for that. So, the South Africans should strive to create more jobs by becoming entrepreneurs. All they need is to learn the intricacies involved in it and be ready to build up businesses from scratch.
- Change of Mindset: No matter how they look at this, the natives need to change their mindsets towards their challenges. They need to accept that they are responsible for their failures and successes. They have to be ready to look for the best solutions to their problems. They should stop complaining and go into action. Besides, they should also bear in mind that only people without values destroy valuable things. So, they should quit destroying other people’s sweat.
- Education: If the natives couldn’t compete with the foreigners, then the education system needs to be queried. It is obvious that their education system didn’t prepare them for life after school. They have to find ways to sort that problem out.
- The Government: Of course the government has a share in the blame for the xenophobic attacks. They need to find ways to help their citizens to develop themselves. And, the government should also protect the lives and properties of all the people within that country.
- Respect for Lives: Every civilised human being respects the lives of others. If South Africans fail to realise this, they are therefore barbaric in nature. And no one wants to deal with a barbarian. In turn, their problems will increase.
I am a strong advocate of human development. I believe that human development is more important than infrastructural development. This is because I believe that when humans have better living conditions they will turn around and make the environment conducive for themselves. Only then can they put in place, things that will make life easier and less stressful for them.
What South Africans and the South African government should concentrate on is finding ways to develop the citizens so that they can have the type of lives they want. Destroying lives, businesses and properties in the name of xenophobia will not take the country anywhere.