By Bernard Bwoni
The inequalities from South Africa’s apartheid era remain unresolved and the anger and resentment continue to simmer into deep-rooted and irrational contempt for foreigners. That could just be an excuse some may say, maybe South Africans are inherently ‘nasty’ and hate foreigners? That of course is a broad generalisation because not all South Africans hate foreigners. South Africa as a nation has enjoyed cordial relations with its neighbours and all other African countries. President Zuma recently welcomed President Mugabe into South Africa for an official state visit and the love and respect for the two neighbours was all evident for the world to see. There are many foreigners who get one with their lives alongside South Africans and are made to feel at home. However the recent irresponsible and ill-thought remarks by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini have certainly boosted xenophobic feelings in South African communities and has seen the escalation of heinous killings of foreigners. It could be a total collapse of the social and moral fabric that is driving these despicable and illegal cremations of foreigners. Unfortunately the King Zwelithini’s (where is the Goodwill in that?) comments seem to have legitimised xenophobic attacks in the Rainbow Nation. As things stand in South Africa this situation has barely been addressed as there is widespread impunity for acts of xenophobia and insufficient, if any, official condemnation. It is as if the authorities condone these deplorable acts of violence on foreigners, no let me rephrase that, 'as if the authorities condone such despicable acts of violence on Africans. The first person who should have shown ‘goodwill’ and come out condemning such abominable and inhuman acts is King Zwelithini but he has since gone into hiding whilst foreigners continue to be incinerated alive. Yes I mean burn as in someone lighting a match and setting a human being on fire in front of jeering and cheering crowds. Whole communities that is. It is all thanks to the King with ‘Goodwill’.
The South African authorities have to launch urgent public campaigns to denounce xenophobia and there is no other way of correcting this crude ailment that has pervaded the Rainbow Nation. There has to be consequences for torching another human being period!. These shocking attacks on Africans by South Africans deserve urgent attention, people being burnt alive deserve urgent and immediate redress. It is not enough for President Zuma to simply say ‘stop killing foreigners’ because this is not going to stop these murders. King Zwelithini’s comments should have received official condemnation right from the start before they set the veld fire. The King himself should have come out publicly stating that he was quoted out of context or denouncing these hate crimes.
There are numerous videos of foreigners being burnt alive in South Africa and that is happening in the full glare of whole communities. There are some harrowing and gut-wrenching videos of children fatally feeling the full impact of the xenophobic purge in South Africa. And the perpetrators are unforgiving as they traumatise the defenceless foreign victims. It is always the poor and most vulnerable who get caught up in these unimaginable acts of barbarity. There is the video of a four young persons with their hands tied and car tyres round their necks. One of them is just a little boy barely a teenager looking dazed, confused and unaware of the cruel fate that was about to befall him. The despair, the forlorn sense of defeat, the hopelessness and helplessness was heart-breaking to watch. The gloom on the poverty-stricken faces, despondent end of hope and the emotions of despair were all too unsettling to even watch the burning itself. The little boy was innocently looking around the unforgiving mob that had encircled them for the purpose of the human bonfire seemingly oblivious to the impending torment and torture that awaited him. The trauma was evidently erased by the sure dearth of hope. This is not meant to blackmail readers emotionally, but rather the reality of humans being burnt alive for being foreigners in South Africa.
That is one of the most distressing scenes of human barbarity ever captured on video and yes they all met their end ablaze. The thing that worried me the most was the gathering community that jeered and cheered at such inhuman behaviour. The young boy alongside four others was set alight in the full glare of the community. A member of the gathering community handed over the box of matches to the men who were meticulously making the preparations for this unethical burning ceremony. This begs the question, was it the man who lit the match or the individual who handed over that match to burn these children responsible? No it was not an individual who did that, it was not an individual who handed over the matches but the whole community did. Every single person who stood by watching and did nothing handed over that match and took part in the gruesome murders. The King who is supposed to have ‘Goodwill’ might as well have handed over that match with his irresponsible utterances. By handing over that box of matches and everyone letting it go unchallenged the whole community participated in this murder and subsequent murders against foreigners in South Africa. I am hurt for them all especially the little boy who had his hands tied behind his back and too traumatised to show any signs of fear. It starts with being irresponsible and labelling nationalities as King Goodwill Zwelithini did his ‘foreigners must pack their bags and go home’ statement. Society takes cue from such irresponsibility. The innocence on the little boy's face before he was set ablaze is haunting and heart breaking. It is a harrowing and distressing depiction of the hideous face of xenophobia in the Rainbow Nation. My brothers and sisters from the Rainbow Nation cheering and jeering as human beings are burnt alive just for being foreigners.
Where is the compassion, the conscience and that degree of self-control that separates us from animals? How can a whole community stand and watch as young defenceless souls are set alight not in random acts but carefully planned manner? Any society that stands by and watches such savagery and brutality without objection is difficult to classify as a developed society. That is an opinion not a fact and most likely the level of violence inflicted on these young men evoked so much emotion that might cause opinions to overlap with facts and vice-versa. There is a sense of denial in terms of accepting responsibility and accountability for such actions by society collectively. Compassion, philanthropy and empathy are the hallmarks of any nurtured and matured society. How any society treats the most vulnerable, how any society accepts the most vulnerable and how any society welcomes the vulnerable from outside is what distinguishes it from the animal kingdom. A degree of self-control and that empathic outlook sets us wide apart from animals. This is about what individuals or groups of individuals collectively are prepared to do and prepared to forego to put themselves on a path towards a matured society. The senseless brutality associated with xenophobia is happening in the full glare of society and not a single soul raised any objections.