When what many call “Xenophobia” erupted in South Africa in May 2008, I made the following motion in the South African Parliament as a Member:
I move without notice that:
This House –
1. Notes with deep concern, the violence that is perpetrated by our people against other Africans from other parts of Africa, namely from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe;
2. Urges this House to speedily send some Members of Parliament to the affected areas to observe this problem on the spot and to speak both to the citizens of our country and those refugees and others who have been victimized;
3. That the House is disturbed about the alleged xenophobia that tarnishes the image of our country internationally, and by the harm this ill-treatment of our brothers and sisters does to the vision of Pan Africanism and the work of the African Union;
4. Appeals for thorough investigation as to the real causes of this savage violence and the solution thereof to avoid repetition of same.”
The South African Parliament under Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete adopted this motion and agreed to visit the people affected. I was one of the Members of Parliament who met the victims of violence from outside South Africa. Sixty two people were reportedly killed of which twenty one were South Africans.
When some weeks later this matter was debated inside Parliament, I said the following:
“Madam Speaker, One of the slogans of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) besides “Izwe Lethu’’ (the Land is Ours); is “Africa for Africans, Africans for humanity, humanity for God.’’ The hymn that was composed by Enoch Sontonga says “Nkosi Sikelela iAfrika.’’(God Bless Afrika). One of our liberation anthems is Morena Boloka Sechaba sa Afrika (God Protect the Nation of Afrika). These anthems were composed with the reality in mind that Africa is one, from Cape to Cairo, Madagascar to Morocco. Whether we like it or not, Africa is one. It has always been one from the time it was called Al-Kebulan or “Mother of Nations’’ or “The Land of Ham.’’ Xenophobia is a disease that can destroy Africa faster than HIV and AIDS. Xenophobia is a step towards reviving tribalism, another disease that was used to divide Africans by the enemies of Africa. In our country, derogatory terms such as “Kaffir’’ are a taboo. Equally our country must put words such as “makwerekwere,’’ “matswantle’’ etc….in the same category as “Kaffir.’’ All the 53 African countries belong to the African Union. They have the Pan African Parliament. They own Africa and its riches collectively. A proper terminology must be found for Africans from outside South Africa. They are not “foreigners.” They can’t be Africans and foreigners at the same time. They all agreed to form the OAU to liberate Africa, including South Africa. Africans are feathers of the same bird. Therefore, let us firmly hold that indeed, the etymological specimen of the identical plumage habitually congregate in the closest proximity. The African people have a common destiny. We are sailing in one ship. If it sails across we shall all be safe, if it sinks we shall all perish. When we were enslaved or colonized the authors of these barbaric acts did not ask whether you were a Nigerian, a Zimbabwean, Azanian or South African. They inflicted their atrocities and genocide on every African whether in Jamaica or America.”
I could not say more. I was allowed two minutes to speak.
Now, in April 2015 our people from outside South Africa are again living in fear.
There is Afrophobia in this country. It is not “Xenophobia.” In English this word that is borrowed from Greek means “fear or dislike of strangers or foreigners.” In the spirit of Ubuntu and Pan Africanism; there is no African who can be “foreigner in Africa” while non-Africans who live here are not considered as foreigners. It is a contradiction in terms, to be an African and a “foreigner” at the same time.
What is called “xenophobia” in South Africa is brother hating or disliking brother. This signals that the colonial mentality is too deep-seated in this country; if this is not the work of hooligans or “third force” to derail the Pan African agenda which fathers of the liberation struggle in Africa such as Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Nyerere, Sobukwe, Lumumba, Garvey, Du Bois, Padmore, Malcom X embraced.
Let this lunacy of Afrophobia be sent to hell. It will kill all of Africa. The ANC Government must investigate this dangerous problem and have it solved once and for all.
The vision of Pan Africanism and a United States of Africa must be brought to the masses of Africa. It must cease to be a mere dream of the Presidents of Africa. The ordinary people of Africa must know about it and its benefits.
Every member of the African Union must declare May 25 a statutory Continental Liberation Day. This must be a special day in which to reflect with the masses of Africa, where Africa has come from through days of slavery, colonialism and racism. They must know where Africa is at present and where Africa must be tomorrow for the benefit of all the people of Africa.
It is a shame that in many African countries including South Africa MAY 25 – AFRICA LIBERATION DAY is nothing while colonial holidays are still CELEBRATED IN A NEW FORM. May 25 should be dedicated to educating all Africa’s people to know themselves and their continent including the Diaspora. AFRICA LIBERATION DAY must be a day on which Africans must know one another better as brothers and sisters and about their continent and how to move it forward for generations of Africans to come.
Another thing must be done in South Africa (Azania) at the airports and other parts of entry into the country. There must an information board marked “From African Union Countries.” This is where these Africans must be served instead of being lumped with foreigners from outside Africa.
The African Union must be for the benefit of African people not of its rulers. Ordinary Africans therefore, must understand the Pan African agenda and vision. After all it is these masses that can drive this agenda, once they realise it benefits them. Afrophobia will destroy the Pan African agenda if African leaders are not careful.
Let all Africa at home and abroad be reminded of the words of that great Nigerian leader Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe when he said: “As itself the cradle [of Western European Civilisation], this Continent [Africa], has had the bad luck of being over-run by [European] soldiers of fortune who had neither [the moral] fibre nor humanity….Slavery played its shameful role in depopulating Africa. Capitalism denuded [Africa] of its wealth. Colonialism deprived Africa of its birthright and imperialism emasculated Africa of its will to live as human being and enjoy its fair share of bounties of the earth.”
All obstacles that make us Africans lose our Pan African focus must be removed. Afrophobia is one of them. Africans are sailing in one ship. If it sails across the stormy sea we shall be safe. If it sinks, we shall all sink and lose OUR AFRICA again to the real foreigners. They are sworn enemies of the Pan African vision and agenda. They work day and night to bury it. Afrophobia serves their vile schemes. All Pan Africanists must be vigilant!
By Dr. Motsoko Pheko
The writer is author of several books including AFRICA IN 5O YEARS. He is a former Member of the South African Parliament. During the liberation struggle he with the help of almost all African countries and the Diaspora represented the victims of apartheid and colonialism at the United Nations in New York and also at the UN Commission on Human Rights. During the liberation struggle in South Africa he had the distinction of a freedom fighter who imprisoned by three colonial regimes in South Africa, Mozambique and Southern Rhodesia.