As South Africans we cannot even begin to negotiate and fully determine the nexus of our identities without learning ourselves within the African context. Africa is not only made up of the vast fields, hills and minerals but most importantly it’s made up of people; African people. By Kgomotso Tolamo
Urbanisation, political unrest, unstable economies and employment opportunities have in their own significant ways created opportunities for rapid intracontinental migration within the African context. According to Anne Kamau and Mwangi Kimenyi the African diaspora comprises 30.6 million people, half of these live in other African countries. In Foresight Africa the African diaspora population is noted as untapped human capital, an underutilized source of investment, support and human capital, and a source for advocacy and political pressure. Further to this the IMF ‘s World Economic Outlook,2012, highlighted 20 countries with the highest projected compounded annual growth rate from 2013 – 2017 and all these countries are either in Africa or Asia. This raises two essential points, Africa ) is rising and Africans are distributing valuable resources and intellectual brilliance within the African continent. Africans are changing perceptions (no matter how slowly) from the begging African to the African with a PhD bringing value to the country he enters.
So why is it that South Africa has become infamously known for its assault and ridicule of foreign nationals; first and foremost it is important that we come to the understanding that the attacks instigated and facilitated by a particular group are not a representation of an entire nation. What these attacks have done is devalue the relationships among Africans and further disconnected us as a people. This has devalued the richness and value that immigrants bring to the country, and has painted the very false picture that most immigrants come with nothing to offer. The reality is, anyone who comes with nothing has left more behind than we could begin to fathom. The concept of home in Africa is attached to much more than a structure, it represents identity, culture, a lineage, a place with history that can be traced back for generations. When the choice, no, in fact when the very stern requirement to leave home is imposed we, who are receivers of these lives, we who have been afforded the opportunity to remain in our home, should look to reconsider our reaction towards diaspora.
The complaint about the influx of immigrants into South Africa seems to only occur when it comes to the poor, uneducated and jobless immigrants; this is not to suggest that more affluent immigrants are not susceptible to this kind of bickering. It’s merely for us to begin to question why the assault on foreign nationals varies in its intensities. Why is it that a South African professional has no/less qualms with a foreign professional of the same calibre and a tuck shop owner in Soweto is angered and threatened by a foreign shop owner of the same calibre? Is it that the latter do not see their kinship? Perhaps the fear is that the little that one has will be taken by someone who is “not even South African”.
As South Africans we cannot even begin to negotiate and fully determine the nexus of our identities without learning ourselves within the African context. Africa is not only made up of the vast fields, hills and minerals but most importantly it’s made up of people; African people. These lives, cultures, languages and traditions are significant in the entirety of the African identity; so what happens when African lives are assaulted and devalued by Africans in Africa? Fights break out, people are taken advantage of and abused where they have come to seek refuge, it is gravely unfortunate that in this midst of one’s struggles their lives are devalued in their place of “refuge”. Do we even fully comprehend who we are fighting and what we are fighting for?
By Kgomotso Tolamo