Africa: Continent Now Facing Black Apartheid
28 May 2008
Posted to the web 28 May 2008
by Tajudeen Abdul Raheem
May 25 was Africa Liberation Day. This year's celebration marked the 50th anniversary of this day set aside for reflection, celebration and rededication to the cause of Africans for liberation from injustices initially by external colonialists but later neo-colonialists and their local agents.
Central to the agenda of Africa's liberation is the notion of 'Africa for Africans' and the unification of Africa 'from Cape to Cairo'. Cape Town never fails to remind one that it remains a European enclave, which may apply to leave the AU and join the EU! A trip to the vibrant souks of Cairo by an African visitor will not be complete without one Egyptian trader or the other asking you; "are you from Africa?"
However ambiguities about being African are not limited to the two cities or both countries. Forty five years after the OAU was headquartered in Addis Ababa, many Ethiopians still talk of or see Africans as others. In Egypt and South Africa the anti-Africa feeling extends to areas that are supposedly more African than both cities.
The tragic events unfolding in South Africa around townships close to Johannesburg may have come as a surprise to those not familiar with the 'rainbow' nation since the end of apartheid in 1994 but not to those Africans living there. We were all on the high about the end of apartheid.
If ever there was an inappropriate slogan, 'rainbow nation' (later discovered not to include the colour Black in it), was one. It invited everybody else but the majority of black people whether internally or externally. Since the inauguration of Mandela there has been rising anti-African xenophobia and discrimination against other Africans.
Unfortunately as with everything else the ANC leadership particularly Thabo Mbeki, tried to intellectualise the problem instead of addressing it. Remember this is a president who claimed he had never known anybody who died of HIV/Aids.
Mbeki's denial default meant that problems are not addressed in time. Initially it was thought that xenophobia was limited to illiterate citizens who would soon get rid of their ignorance as prosperity spread with enough economic crumbs dropping off the tables of new black elite for their masses.
This is not how it is turning out. But instead of the excluded masses turning on their elite, they are venting their anger and frustration on the migrants from Africa whom they blame for their inadequate housing or stealing their jobs.
This violence is directed predominantly at other Black Africans; Zimbabweans, Nigerians, Somalis, Mozambicans, other southern Africans. How come this 'anger' has not extended to white immigrants from Europe and former Soviet Union or Asia including Chinese and Indians?
It is encouraging that after initial shock sections of the South African establishment (the Human Rights Commission for example) but more importantly parts of the civil society especially the church led by the Methodist Church are beginning to speak out openly. There are also attempts by local communities to reclaim the streets from the criminal bigots.
President Mbeki's reaction remains: What is behind this? Who is behind it? I heard him asking on SABC Africa. Why can't he get it that we do not expect questions from our leaders? We expect answers and concrete actions.
If the South African political leadership is failing us, why are African leaders whose citizens are being killed not saying anything? If our leaders are failing us, what about our civil society? Why are there no demonstrations at South African embassies across this continent and even in the Diaspora? We must say no to attacks on any African from Cape Town to Cairo. You can do something. Do so now.
The writer is as a Pan Africanist
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