Tuesday, 20 May 2008

A simple recipe for xenophobia

Justice Malala: Monday Morning Matters

Published:May 19, 2008

Cocktail’s main ingredients are ANC’s failed policies

President Thabo Mbeki and his ANC successor Jacob Zuma were refugees in London, Zambia, Nigeria, Swaziland and Mozambique, among other places, between 1962 and 1990.

I mention this for those of my countrymen and women who have short memories. We should be ashamed that it is us who are today raping, looting and killing foreigners apparently because they “steal” our houses and “our women”.

What caused the terrible scenes unfolding in our country today: children beaten and displaced, women raped and men left with pieces of flesh hanging from their faces, homeless and hungry and desperate?

What led to a situation where young men were unashamed to stand in front of television cameras and say they will kill foreigners?

We should not be surprised. For the ANC, led by Zuma and Mbeki, the chickens are coming home to roost.

A cocktail of factors, mixed by the ANC over the past 10 years, is responsible for the barbarism.

These people are behaving like barbarians because the ANC has failed — despite numerous warnings — to act on burning issues that are well known for having sparked similar eruptions across the globe.

This cocktail is made up of stubborn denialism on Zimbabwe, an increasingly incompetent and corrupt police service, poor service delivery and corruption in government departments.

The crime-does-pay culture fostered by the ANC — criminals such as the Travelgate fraudsters walk away scot-free — is a central ingredient of the cocktail.

But the bulk of the cocktail comprises the failed state that is Zimbabwe. The country’s economy has collapsed. Its political leaders, security services and agents are looting the treasury. Zimbabweans are fleeing.

When a state fails, crime goes through the roof. Corruption, characterised by bribery at every turn, becomes the norm. Crucially, crime is exported across the borders of the failed state to neighbouring states.

The Mbeki government’s refusal to even acknowledge the crisis in Zimbabwe has resulted in as many as 3-million Zimbabweans walking the streets of South Africa.

If Mbeki and his deputy president, Zuma, had acted decisively on Zimbabwe nine years ago, when they were told repeatedly by fellow leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Durban to do so, these Zimbabweans would not be here today.

Mbeki’s resolute refusal to address the crisis in Zimbabwe — and his friendship with President Robert Mugabe — has brought them here. His block-headedness is directly responsible for the eruption of xenophobia.

Add to the cocktail the fact that the SA Police Service has become so incompetent and overstretched there is no way that any of the perpetrators of the past week’s atrocities will be brought to book.

Ordinary citizens predicted last week that these riots would spread to the Joburg CBD. When violence erupted downtown on Saturday night, the police were unprepared.

The police have no intelligence- gathering capacity and can hardly explain what is happening today, let alone contain it.

Their failure is rooted in the fact that many of them are taking bribes from foreign refugees anxious to avoid being deported.

Their incompetence is also responsible for the culture — entrenched during the Mbeki-Zuma regime — that crime goes unpunished. After all, these marauding hordes know that Mbeki protected his crony, Jackie Selebi, for years.

There is no respect for the law. These hordes can rape and loot without fear of arrest, let alone prosecution.

The endemic corruption among government officials is an integral part of the cocktail. There is so much corruption in the construction and allocation of government housing that resentment, misplaced or not, is inevitable.

There are no quick fixes to this mess. The removal of Mbeki, as suggested by Mathews Phosa, is not a solution. The problem is that the ANC’s policies have failed.

In the short term it would be an idea for the incompetent minister of safety and security, Charles Nqakula, to get his charges to come down harder on perpetrators. Better intelligence-gathering, including the early identification of potential trouble-makers, would help.

Government leaders such as Mbeki should visit the communities afflicted by this xenophobia, instead of issuing condemnations from Mozambique.

In the long term, some cool heads, efficiency and moral fibre would help. But asking that of the ANC today is asking a little bit too much. These are the same people who are disbanding the Scorpions. Asking them to act in the interests of the country, and not their own narrow interests, is useless.



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