The reality of the ‘rainbow nation’ (a term that was coined in South Africa when it achieved the status of a democracy) that nobody ever talks about now is that xenophobic attacks have been on the increase. As well trauma, rape, domestic violence, mental illness, poverty, stress and depression in workplaces across the country, the latent spread of HIV/AIDS, peer pressure amongst the youth and adolescents, child abuse, politicians who greedily feed off their own power and absolute control and corruption. These are sensitive issues often treated with disdain, ignorance or kept at arm’s length.
From the presidential address from the president of the NUM (New Unity Movement) of 2009 we get an idea of the devastation, cruelty, chaos and mayhem caused by the xenophobic attacks which took place in different parts of South Africa during 2008. “62 deaths, 670 wounded, dozens of women raped, hundreds of thousands of people displaced”. As well as “properties worth millions of rand was looted, destroyed or seized from foreign nationals by South Africans”.
Although we are into 15 years into a newborn democracy; a rainbow nation it seems that our society is still plagued by racism and prejudice which takes place on a daily basis throughout our country and across the continent of Africa. The fight for non-racialism should become a priority in all walks of life if we want a truly democratic non-racial, non-sexist South Africa and society.
South Africa has inherited group areas from a legacy of the Group Areas Act as expounded by the Nationalist Party Government. This Act caused the most striking devastation throughout the country since each population group had to be accommodated and accounted for in their own areas.
People were forcibly removed and despite protestations many communities were broken up and sent to distant insulated and isolated areas with no schools, churches, mosques and temples. These buildings were demolished and bulldozed into oblivion. The major effect of this on the marginalized, disenfranchised and disadvantaged communities was that they were separated from one another and one group was given more advantages than others. Thus the government made use of the tried and tested method of divide and rule which was utilized by the British and American government all over the world – British and American Imperialists.
This caused division and disorder among the marginalized groups of the oppressed so that they could not organize themselves into a coherent whole to take a stand against the Anglo-Boer regime or Apartheid.
Colonial masters making use of the separation of marginalized groups saw these groups looking at each other suspiciously and saw to it to drive them apart. This had as a major result of them not seeing the colonists as an enemy. Thus racism played an important part in causing divisions and diversions amongst the oppressed groups in South Africa.
These conditions were further reinforced by separate amenities act. Colored Affairs Department, Indian Affairs Department and Blacks were subjected to influx control (this was a law that prevented the Blacks from entering urban areas) and the pass laws. This would have disastrous and long-term effects on the development on the non-racial ethic amongst the oppressed in South Africa.
The so-called Colored and Indian people were particularly used by the Nationalist Party Government who created a separated Tricameral Parliament with the Coloureds and Indians separated from the Blacks. They had their own representatives in their own wards and in government and this was known as the Tricameral parliament.
This put them in a class of their own. This was vehemently opposed by the rank and file, the ordinary man in the street and respective communities. Progressive organizations like NUM took a strong stance against participants in the Tricameral parliament and exposed them for what they were – the White man’s stooges and quislings. No event had played a greater role in separating the Blacks from the Indian and the Colored community.
At the same time the National Party Government created the homelands where different Black groups were designated to stay in their own areas. This was opposed by the Blacks who saw people like Mantanzima and Mangope as sell-outs of the Blacks to the Nationalist Party Government. These groupings were primarily used to separate the Blacks from their authentic and sincere leaders. These institutions brought about a drastic change, response, reaction from Black leaders who fought the homelands tooth and nail.
When the ANC was banned as well as the PAC the people were without leaders and it resulted in big political trials in which many of the accused were incarcerated on Robben Island.
The 1970’s saw the birth of the Black Consciousness movement which fought for the return of the dignity, integrity and power of the Blacks. This was the start of the Black People’s Congress which under the leadership of people like Steve Biko heralded in a new era of Black politics. It believed that the Black man had to take back his pride and power and play a leading role in his own unity, solidarity, freedom and liberation.
The situation was very difficult since the Nationalist Party Government made effective use of a well-trained security police and informers; police spies. These had penetrated the people’s organizations and many innocent people were tortured, detained, imprisoned and beaten up. The charges in most cases were never brought to an open court and many of these people were innocent.
The Tricameral Parliament as the Bantustans brought an end to any unity amongst the oppressed people’s of South Africa. Many Colored and Indians took advantage of the crumbs offered or that fell off the plate of the White man. These acts brought about strong feelings of racism between Blacks, Colored and Indians. Thus, the Anglo-Boer culture had succeeded to a great extent to prevent a spirit of non-racialism developing amongst the oppressed groups.
The above demonstrates how successive colonial governments had played a significant role in preventing non-racialism from developing in the oppressed groups.
Xenophobic attacks clearly demonstrate how deep racism has been engraved in the culture and consciousness, in the morale and moral fibre of modern day South Africans.
The only way is developing spirit, a paradigm shift of non-racialism among all South Africans. That people begin to see each other as human beings, mankind as Humankind and instead of a pool of different races that we are one race, ultimately the human race.
The power of the words coming from a writer or a poet, of writing and truth is the greatest catalyst that exists on earth to overcoming barriers like racism and prejudice. Hopefully this article will draw attention to the painful history of the Group Areas Act and the marginalization Black people went through, stripped of their human dignity and integrity.
The pain and suffering that truth can put us through is the greatest test we can have on our extraordinary will and humane strength. It tests our boundaries, our limits and our feeble limitations and can make human beings communicate across strange and mysterious countries, continents and lands. We can find a pure peace of mind in reading and writing the truth about history and the past if we search the deepest, darkest depths of our soul.
This article will also draw attention to exposure of other African writers. It will also face the issues that are still undeniably prevalent in today’s society such as racism and prejudice.
Everyday in this country time is running out. There are men, women and children who live without honor, decency, values and integrity. This is Africa and sub-Saharan Africa’s masterpiece that we have discovered. Time is running out on us to develop successful behavior. The future is now. Life in impoverished, marginalized and disadvantaged areas are teetering on the brink.
What has led to the inevitable decline that has advanced on the poor during these turbulent times? Is this the legacy the leaders of our government and the African renaissance want to leave us with? South Africa is on a self-destructive mode even more so than Zimbabwe. Stress and depression is rife in the workplace. People ridicule mental illness and depression.
We are missing the childlike innocence all citizens had in the new beginnings of the new South Africa – the rainbow nation. We don’t have enough brain power. Politicians are corrupt, as is the upper hierarchy that exists in management in the corporate world. The nature of the new game plan is how fast can I make new money and spend it. On our school playing fields there exists an uninhibited violence and pornography. What would the dead heroes and heroines of the struggle desire be for revenge on all the negative issues that are prevalent in today’s society? Only time will tell. Even with the horrors of defeat facing us in all spheres and realms of the human condition we must look upon positive solutions to free us from daily pessimism.
Why is mental cruelty, emotional and physical abuse against women on the increase across the world? I believe it is because of the apathy of powerful men and women in government to pass laws and legislation that will protect us.
Violence in sexuality and pornography has become permissive in our society because children are becoming more sensitized, they view more sexually explicit and inappropriate material than other children have at any other age in other generations before them. An individual, girl child or boy, woman or man should draw the line at an invasion of privacy and unwanted inappropriate behavior that makes her uncomfortable and her decision should be respected.
Sexual advances should be abhorred, uninvited on every level (intimate, emotional, physical, even intellectual; flirting) if it is not between two consenting adults.
Women who have been abused physically and emotionally do not have a voice. They rely on people who have one, who have resources to help them like social workers and journalists. Help them, South Africa. The more we talk about the stigma of this disorder sweeping our country called racism across the color line, the more we will stamp out fear, shame, trauma, pain and silence.
Nowadays we pull away from things that are aggressive, brutal and violent in nature. Things that antagonize us. We debate our corrupt politicians’ lives; we refuse to give handouts to beggars at our doors, we let television, the news shatter the illusions we have of living in a perfectly sane and normal world filled with sobriety. We estrange ourselves from our immediate family and generally find closeness and comfort in the company of strangers.
Our body language, hearts, our heads, our consciousness, our erratic, reckless sometimes crude, vulgar, crass, vile, racialistic behavior is still relevant to this day, our emotional intelligence cripples us as a nation. We are still not in one piece. We still do not have peace.
We still do not exist in the right compelling and unique place. We are all not sheltered; all the children that exist on this continent, on this earth, on these playing fields or ganglands are still not safe or protected from abandonment, neglect, child abuse, from being malnourished, their bellies filled with hunger, distended and sexual predators. They are not protected from all harm.
It is as if we are all kindred spirits moving in spinning time, mobilized by our fears of crime, shoot outs at malls, being hijacked or robbed at gunpoint, all our secrets laid bare in the brink of the face of fear of intrusive giant war machines in our country; on the soil of Africa. The only reason we exist is to fend for ourselves and our kin. To protect our own interests, our intentions however honorable they might seem to be to scrupulous us.
We South Africans all seem to move in schizoid synchronicity, responding to the universe in shifts as, if and when our moods change. Moving like golden threads in light. To those who are caught in poverty they are ignored, treated with aloofness and indifference. The rich are admired, worshiped, adored and treated as if they live in lofty towers. The real suffering, the daily humiliations, the sadness, the hunger, the dreams, the goals, the visions and decisions of the dirt poor, the kitchen girls and the garden boys simply goes unnoticed by their wealthy employers, the ‘Madams’ and their offspring living uninspired lives, driving their posh cars and living in their comfortable lifestyles and homes.
There is a web like cold, wet spittle that lies beneath the great divide between the poor and the rich in South Africa. A web that includes education for the children of the middle classes and the relatively well-off, wealth, corruption, greed, moolah, alumni and the family of alumni that goes back generations, university. The tempo of racism includes university education.
At shelters, schools and clinics in the rural areas, orphanages, soup kitchens across the country, across the continent innocence and childhood is sorely lacking and is lost when you are growing up stuck in the rut that is known as poverty, the marginalized and the disenfranchised. Here children are wilder than the wind. They live half-lives always longing for peace of mind and a precious personal space they can call their own as a response to psychological relief in order to grow up normally in an abnormal world that can see them walking to school for hours in the morning in the rural area.
The way we attack and pay back the relatively poor and uneducated in South Africa, our brothers and sisters from other African countries, other nations is an indictment on our own personal journey from childhood to adulthood; our own background and the daily feedback we got from our parents whether or not they were absent or present in out day to day lives. We see survival in Africa and learning to deal with the art of failure and humiliation on a daily basis. We see how it has been consequently rehashed. We see how it has reshaped the mind and ideas of women in other countries on this vibrant and cosmopolitan continent who are still on a daily basis seen as second class citizens and sometimes especially their own children, especially young girls. We see also how education can empower them and can be an exit out of the extreme poverty they find themselves in. Abuse and neglect has for far too long been written on their bodies, been burned on their brain.
The more we lack empathy and tenderness for innocent people in situations like xenophobic attacks, violence, crime, HIV/AIDS, child abuse, battered wife syndrome, retrenchment, abortion and the like more of these crimes will continue unabated.