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Xenophobic attacks in South Africa evidence of leadership gone awry

By Alexander Chagema | April 4th 2019 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

If the marker of 25 years after the collapse of apartheid in South Africa is Xenophobia, Africa still has a long way to go. For days now, and not for the first time, South Africans are venting their frustrations on black immigrants.

And as is the custom with African bureaucracy, which is adept at burying its head in the sand than finding practical solutions to problems, the South African government has categorised the xenophobic attacks as common acts of criminality.

But then, that is Africa for you. The black man’s hatred for fellow blacks is legendary, but quite disturbing. Neo-apartheid—advocacy for staying apart—threatens to turn Africa’s second largest economy into a pariah state. It flies in the face of the ideals that Nelson Mandela stood for, and for which he was incarcerated for 27 years on Robben Island. In this ignominy, South Africa has company.

In 1994, Rwanda went to the dogs because the Hutu and Tutsi communities could not stand each other. By the time the Rwanda genocide came to an end, at least one million people had been killed. In Nigeria, the 1967-1970 Biafra War that pitted black Nigerians against each other on account of ethnicity, culture and religion had its toll too. By the time it ended, at least one million people had died.

Ideological differences, misrule and intolerance led to the split in Sudan. Following secession calls and a subsequent referendum; South Sudan broke away from Sudan and became an independent state in 2011.

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That independence has turned out to be a curse; the harbinger of more misery for the South Sudanese. The Neur and Dinka communities, goaded on by their tin gods Riek Machar and Salva Kiir, cannot stand each other. Tens of thousands have been killed while millions have been displaced internally. Need we talk about DR Congo, Cameroon, Comoros, Central African Republic, Sudan and Somalia?


At home, we engage in our little wars in the Rift Valley every five electoral years; the last one in 2008 claimed 1,300 lives and displaced more than half a million internally. Yet despite the ignominy of 2008, combative pseudo-leaders continue to fan the embers of fire through reckless talk in defence of their greed for power; a platform from which they could plunder national resources without fear. Such unbridled greed is the cause of Africa’s gargantuan problems; unsurmountable without a change of mindset.

Common denominators in the aforementioned countries include institutionalised corruption, negative ethnicity, human rights violations, feckless leadership and megalomania.

An abundance of oil has not stopped Nigeria and South Sudan from becoming basket cases. An abundance of copper and gold has not stopped DRC Congo from becoming a lawless jungle. South Africa, with all its natural resources is failing. Kenya, despite the Turkana oil, coal and titanium, is slipping. Clearly, Africa lacks competent, focused leadership to harness such resources for the good of its people.

Requisite skills

Nigeria and South Africa might be the first and second largest economies in Africa, albeit as  statistics on paper. In reality, they have some of the highest levels of unemployment, crime, poverty and general destitution in Africa. Combined, these factors have contributed to high levels of illiteracy.

The high cost of education means many parents cannot afford to educate their children to higher levels of education that could make a difference in their lives. As consequences, requisite skills and qualifications for certain jobs among the local populace are missing.

In a way, that necessitates import of labour. The common man either does not understand, or chooses not to concern himself with these dynamics which, to a point, explains recourse to xenophobia.

Grand scale corruption defines what independent Africa has morphed into. This vice is responsible for the exponential growth of unemployment, lack of opportunities, and the stagnation of SMEs that would otherwise have provided avenues for many to make a decent living. It is responsible for the despicable state of Africa’s health system.

Besides open defecation, lack of clean drinking water, it is a shame that Africans still die from cholera and malaria. Even polio that was supposed to have been vanquished decades ago is making a comeback, all because leaders have better preoccupations; like feathering their own nests, to care much about the common man.

It is because of such mediocrity that leaders in Kenya would rather engage top gear campaigning for 2022 than organise humanitarian assistance for the starving and dying people in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid areas. They have abandoned them, yet if elections were called today, these two-faced cheats will be all over the arid and semi-arid areas peddling lies that have become their middle names.

Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]


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