‘Mandelaland’, the land of Nelson Mandela, a Xhosa, is the Republic of South Africa. Mandeland is very far from being Mandela-like in any conception whatsoever. The experience of non-South African Africans in Mandelaland since the fall of Apartheid has been economically rewarding for most but also dangerous for most. The recent violence by South African Blacks against foreign Blacks is a gaping chink in Mandela’s overly “canonised” image.
There is no surprise in the violence currently unleashed in South Africa against foreign Black Africans. The senselessness, cowardliness, gratuitousness and heartlessness of the violence add a further darkening to the ‘Ontology of the African’ which is already so dark and desperately needs light. It is evident that the structures of globalisation and the very politics of ‘Madiba’ created or ignored the conditions that made such wanton violence possible today. Such violence must be thoroughly condemned but condemnation alone will not adequately address the root causes of the problem.
Panglossians and ‘do gooders’ make sweet talk and reverent song about economic growth and prosperity in Africa based on the export of mineral resources and invisible innovation but the dividends of such never reach the majority of African peoples. We no doubt will hear ‘feel good factor’ comments on the on-going violence from them.
Mandela is Africa’s greatest statesman. However, anyone visiting South Africa today will realise Apartheid structures are still intact. Visit Soweto, visit Botshabelo, visit Qwaqwa, then vist Lenasia and visit the white strongholds, Apartheid is still very much the dominant social paradigm in South Africa. Mandela did not do much to dismantle the ‘culture of Apartheid’ but instead sought prestige as a ‘statesman of international stature’ which he achieved but his people got nothing whatsoever from it. What Mandela did not tackle or lay foundations to tackle may have turned into ochlocracy and violence. Are Africans not tired of leaders that are ‘good’ but cannot ‘do good’ due to one reason or another?
One would think that South Africans after their “experience” should know better than persecute ‘other people’ with violence, vindictiveness, rancour and nihilism. They do not! In fact, living endlessly under oppression actually prevents this. When the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s achieved some significant success in the USA, many expected elation but resentment and anger is what the African Americans felt and expressed. The years of hell a people experience does not disappear or go forgiven because of some recognition or pay-out. The White man knew this in advance and was keen to say “the black man does not know what to do with freedom”.
To the White man’s pleasure, structures of discrimination and power ensured by subtle implication the Black man knew his anger and resentment for enduring centuries of victimisation, torture, disempowerment, hardship etc. inflicted upon him could only be unleashed on his own. One activist once said every blow a Black man gives to another Black man is a blow against the White man [by proxy], unbelievable but relevant. ‘Black on black violence’ is a favourite in sociology departments of the academy. Majority of respectable Blacks would condemn black on white violence, tolerate black on black violence and totally ignore white on black violence. But we are talking about South Africa here; foreign Africans are simply “fair game”.
Every index on the economic performance of South Africa tells, externally, of a great economic and social society. The internal reality is that millions of Black South Africans live in “polythene bag structures”, have no jobs, no access to services and no hope; they float under the Hades of modern society. The frustration this creates is taken out on fellow Blacks and foreign Blacks who are the softest targets. Those who have jobs complain of welfare schemes that will help the poor because it is paid out of their taxes. Those with education blame the uneducated for not going to school as if a degree is the only means to a livelihood. The list is long and tells the stroy of ignorance, conflation and confusion..
It was Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini that precipitated the violence in South Africa with now tragic comments but some will blame it on displaced, disenfranchised, dispossessed and disconnected followers. If South Africa had un-Mandela-like and good leaders this violence may not have been happening today and in the future. The king knew that South Africa was a caricature or cartoon for global imagery and rigged the sentiments of his people very cunningly.
Let us not forget that according to a close source that the king’s tragic statements are partly a response to “poverty tourism”, a thriving industry in which citizens of rich nations visit South Africa (and other nations in the Third World) to enjoy watching how ‘the wretched of the earth ‘ live. This is no excuse for genocide but is a significant provocation. Poverty tourism is a growing business; profit-making Schadenfreude par excellence! Such will be surely under-reported or ignored even if evidence of it is abundant and accessible.
The lesson from this experience is that when governing the affairs of your country; do not look outside of your borders for relevance because those who look inwards will undo your governance legacy with a small but significant act. Lastly, can people not stop celebrating the poverty of others vulgarly?