The xenophobic attacks on some foreigners in South Africa is totally unacceptable, sad and unreasonable and should be condemned by all. No matter the explanation given, this is simply not right and is criminal.
Thankfully, the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has openly condemned the attacks, saying that: “There can be no justification for any South African to attack people from other countries”.
Xenophobia is a phenomenon characterised by hatred and violence towards foreigners. It is not unique to Africa or South Africa, though its frequent recurrence in South Africa in recent years leaves much to be desired. The African Centre for Migration and Society has stated that such attacks occurred in 1994 and peaked in 2008 and 2015. This suggests that the cases in the past were not resolved in a manner to prevent a recurrence.
There have also been reports of reprisal attacks on South African businesses in other countries, particularly Nigeria, and these must also be condemned in equal measure.
The reprisal attacks have been fuelled by certain images and videos, some fake, which are making the rounds on social media.
While I do not in anyway justify what is happening, a certain trend of events seem to provoke such ill feelings. For instance in Ghana, we have had issues with some foreign herdsmen whose cattle graze anywhere and destroy farms.
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The involvement of some Nigerians in criminal activities in the country in crimes such as cyber fraud, robbery, kidnapping, and some Chinese in illegal mining and retailing of goods, have led to some ill feelings from the host country. The Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) for instance have held many protests calling on the government to enforce the laws against foreigners operating in the retail business.
These are in no way close to the xenophobic attacks in South Africa but equally condemnable.
The bottom line is that disrespect for the laws of host countries is sometimes the cause of such attacks.
No country would be comfortable with the uncontrolled influx of foreigners to distort their economies. President Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall between the USA and Mexico to curtail the influx of Mexicans into the USA is a typical example. According to him, it will reduce the drug trade and the entry of illegal immigrants. Yet it is no secret that Mexicans provide a ready and cheap labour for the USA.
In the wake of all the happenings in South Africa, the South African High Commissioner to Ghana, Lulu Xingwana, was reported to have made comments which attracted criticism from sections of the public. She is reported to have advised African governments to create jobs for their citizens to discourage them from travelling to South Africa for greener pastures. She also complained about the sale of fake goods by foreigners in South Africa.
Her remarks would have been well received but for the timing. It is akin to “farting even as your body smells”, and hence the backlash and criticisms are not surprising.
It is often said that “the truth is bitter! Otherwise must it even take somebody to admonish governments to create jobs for their citizens? Why do governments exist in the first place? Or we are happy with our youth perishing on the high seas and on the desert in their bid to seek greener pastures abroad?
Our disdain for the truth was also on display when we descended on the Serbian coach of the Black Stars whose only crime was that he dared say that Ghanaians were indisciplined. Well, later events which included the setting up of a campaign against indiscipline initiated by the then Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, and the exchange of slaps in Brazil vindicated him!
It is true that other African countries, including Ghana, supported the fight against apartheid, but does that mean we should not build our individual economies for our own benefit?
Even as we condemn the attacks in South Africa, we should not take the South African High Commissioner’s sentiments on its face value. We should work at improving the various sectors of our country in a manner that would create employment.
Citizens build countries and we have all it takes to build a better Ghana that can match the likes of South Africa if not better. Failure to do that and we shall always be slaves in other peoples lands. Just imagine the atrocities which are being meted out to our women in the Arab world? Surely, we can and must do better.