iXenophobia, afrophobia, racism and its solution in south africa





By Isaiah-Phillips Akintola


We have seen so many dramatic events and changes take place in the past few weeks both from the ANC led South African government, and other civil organizations from within and outside South Africa who are seriously concern with regards to the recent barbaric attack on the African foreign immigrants.

Beyond media agenda

It is crucially important that we don’t allow this highly important issue to become another media flash point that grabs our attention and interest, but then suddenly gets over run by other developing events on the media, to the point where we forget and suddenly then realize we are back to the same very issue again few months down the line.

The media today has found a very subtle and deceptive way of controlling and influencing how humans think, relate and respond to life and highly important societal issues. I am very aware of the power of the media in trying to define and manipulate what society should see as important or less important.

Therefore, I desire everyone reading this article to make a deliberate conscious effort to make sure we collectively remind ourselves daily in prayer and in our engagement with the society to push this ungodly spirit of fear, insecurity and hate not just out of South Africa, but out of the continent of Africa and the rest of the world.

This so called apprehensive phobia attitude we’ve seen shown to most black immigrants, which unfortunately has led to the death of hundreds of lives since 2008 up to date, in my opinion, highlights core fundamental issues that are yet to be resolved within the sociocultural psyche of South Africa. And I am convinced that this time around the government will do everything within its power and authority to resolve this big issue hanging over this great nation of people.

Perception and reaction  

When one puts into perspective the backdrop of South Africa’s horrific apartheid history, one immediately see the connection.  The connection to how we see, perceive, believe and react to issues and people within and around our world are all informed by the inner process and circumstances that informs and shape both the spiritual and psychological outlook of an individual or society. Societies are clear reflection of their historic foundation.

Identifying the social psyche of the nation

If South Africa was to be an individual, how would you see this person who has been through all kinds of horrific experience, and what kind of spiritual or medical solution will you recommend if you are a spiritual leader or a medical practitioner for that matter? I am of the view that the way the rest of the world including my own people from West Africa perceived the nation to some degree is inaccurate, and that is partly due to how the nation of South Africa presented itself before the global stage.

Here is a nation rich in the history of the great struggle against white imperialist and the ungodly apartheid regime; A generation of people who through the ungodly apartheid order had tried everything to systematically dehumanize and deprive them of what is rightly there’s, suddenly now have this opportunity to repossess the inheritance their forefathers fought and died for, in my opinion, brought a sense of mixed emotional feelings, they seem not to have ben prepared to handle either from the spiritual, psychological sociocultural, or economic point. The pressure to integrate was just too much. 

A parallel picture in the bible

This reminds me of the children of Israel who for four hundred and thirty years have been under the bondage of their taskmaster only for a generation to suddenly come into the reality that they will actually be leaving the house of slavery they have almost become accustom to. It is a clear fact in the scriptures that only two of that entire generation that came out of Egypt actually entered the Promised Land, not even Moses, the leader the lord used to bring the people out entered the Promised Land.

This concept we also see frequently in the situation where a nation has been through a long season of civil war or regime change that the very people who fought for revolution and change usually are not adequately prepare to effectively lead the nation. And I do not think this is a deliberate act by the people. It just happens that while you are in the process of fighting for change, society often allow this subtle deception of wanting to remove evil to so overshadow them to the point that they completely forget to reinstall the carrier of light with the capacity to bring lasting change.

The pain of war often do more damage to our soul and humanity than the very affliction received from the perpetrators of evil we are trying to get rid of. Many of those leading us in society, most especially in regions that have been through long seasons of civil wars are often damage humans, whose wounds and pains are covered up by the garment of their political office or appointment. There is more than meets the eye!

The nation of South Africa, if you ask me, was completely cut off guard at all points regarding the reason for her freedom, and the process of her transition from a protracted battle against apartheid to the point that she became cut up in so many peripheral things that both distracted and almost lured her away from her dignity and humanity. To me, this is one of the greatest mistakes that needs to be urgently and systematically fixed within the African community, and beyond if she must precisely take her rightful place in destiny.

Teaching the present the history of the past

The sense of knowing that something belongs to you, but you cannot have it because a draconian law prohibits you. I don’t think most people, including the current ANC leadership, truly understand or comprehend the emotional and psychological damage the past history of the nation has on the present day society.

I often here the slogan, the born free generation, and that is true, for there is a born free generation but what defines that freedom is not just the absence of apartheid or racism, but an awareness of the call and the responsibility of a people given the now opportunity to challenge and fix their past by building a new race of people, whose values and principle of life is architect on the solid foundation of true forgiveness, healing and reconciliation in creating a society with the vision and drive to collectively achieve great possibilities without racism. To me, this is freedom in the context of the South Africa of my dream.

While it is true that those in leadership today failed to have taught and conscientize their people regarding the sacrificial contributions made by the rest of the African countries, especially those from west Africa in fighting apartheid and its demonic operating system, one can understand that even those in government were not immune from the same psychological frame of thought that says we are now in charge and we will never again allow anyone or group of persons to invade our land or space again.

And this frame of thought seem to have preoccupy the minds of most of the formerly marginalized community people, and of cause, their traditional rulers, to the point that they became overwhelmed by the act of trying to protect all they now possess to the point of losing their sanity and humanity especially to the very same people who sheltered, housed and school some of their leaders while in exile.

If some of these people were adequately taught the role their African brothers played in the freedom of South Africa, they would have learnt to recognize, respect and appreciate these allies of their great heroes and patriarchs. The knowledge of history and its application helps a great deal in how we view and understand life and people around us. Any nation or society that forgets its history, risk not losing its identity and humanity but also its future.

We shall further consider this principle later on as we look into some key solution in resolving this continental nightmare. While the idea of South African dark history should not be used as a point to excuse the kind of treatment and mayhem we have seen delved on the blacks immigrants.

Is South Africa an angry society?

Yet, we cannot disconnect the impact of this attack on the both the spiritual and psychological dysfunctional operating template within the society. South Africa as a society need divine healing, and nobody should try to deny it. I am sure you have had the statement, South Africans are a very angry people; even the president himself at point had also viewed this sentiment.

While this may not be a general fact of the state of the society, and I don’t believe it is. However, the fact remains that when you consider the kind of criminal activity that takes place in South Africa, one cannot but to ask some very vital question that should lead us to precisely finding the answer and solution to the seemly complex sociocultural challenges. If anyone is sincere in dealing with issues that shapes and affect the identity of the nation, we then cannot lie to ourselves regarding the true state of things.

One of our problems as humans is that we tend to push things under the carpet that we don’t seem to know how to handle, especially on a national scale. I do not believe this is the right attitude in response to building a true healthy prosperous, vision driven society.

I in particular, have a burden for this great nation because I was sent here by the lord with a definite prophetic mandate, and I can tell you that the father is still deploying his engineers and wise master builders to help in the reconstruction of his divine architectural master plan for the nation. This resourceful men and women like me and many others, are already busy reforming and repositioning the right spiritual structural template through the ministry of strategic governmental intercessory initiatives.

Leadership and the act of mastering complex challenges

Therefore, we cannot afford to push things away or respond in a passive or reactive way just for the fact that we don’t understand the operating mechanism or condition of the present times. This kind of attitude will not only make us more weak and susceptible to our past fears and limitations, but also makes us more insecure and isolated from those the lord has positioned to assist in our restoration.

Having said this, the delay in response by the state to the xenophobia or Afrophobia attacks, and their inability to deftly arrest and prosecute the key leaders behind this mayhem, speaks into several points I would like to examine and highlight as we try to consider some vital management solution in dealing with this darkness we all seek to pass away.

Firstly, I would say that this issue should have been dealt with seriously in 2008 when so many immigrant lives were lost by the first attack. If fact, President Jacob Zuma admitted that they thought they had dealt with it. Well, if it was effectively dealt with initially, it would not have resurfaced.

If there a problem and you cannot find the root cause and decisively deal with it, it will certainly happen again, it’s only a matter of time.  Therefore, this matter clearly speak directly to the sense of weakness, ignorance and leadership disconnection in terms of effective strategic response.

Secondly, it echoes a fact that government did not realize the unprecedented ripple impact and damage such weak response could delve on its economy and the image of the nation from the rest of the world. And thirdly, it shows a complete ignorance and disconnection to the current binding architectural design realities of the 21st century global economic integration policy, which influences not just the socioeconomic boundaries of nations but also their immigration policy.

The complexity of national identity and foreign business interest

A very good example is Zimbabwe and South Africa economic partnership, which was reinforce just few weeks ago before this recent attacks on migrants again. While there is clear reflection of bad unproductive leadership ethics in Zimbabwe, yet, it is a known fact that most of big mining corporations in Zimbabwe are either own by South African business men or have a huge stake in them. This explain why the nation is home to over a million plus Zimbabweans.

Where the is an embracing of the ideology of globalization by any nation regardless of the socioeconomic status, there are bound to be positive and negative impacts, which migration is certainly one of them, and it is the core responsibility of the state and its various organs to precisely and effectively communicate and prepare its citizens ahead of time for those who will be coming into their country either to study, trade or further their business opportunity.

The interconnection of the 21st century society

It cannot be said that in the 21st century that there are certain regions in the earth who are xenophobic or Afrophobia in their outlook. The very nature and structure of the 21st century seeks to break down all form of barriers, especially if they are economic based. Europe today is faced with this same issue of migration, and the more it tries to toughen its immigration policies, the more it seem they fail. Why? The destabilization of a region has a powerful ripple effect on not just the immediate regions but on also on a larger global scale.

A protracted war in Libya, Syria or Nigeria defines the buying power somewhere completely not regionally connected. Why? The world today is economically interconnected. While we perfectly understand that this ideology of interconnection seem for now to be only benefiting some selected regions, especially those regions that have enjoyed political stability for decades or even centuries for that matter.

However, if other state in Africa can realize the negative impact of political destabilization, and put mechanisms in place to prevent both internal and external forces from disrupting their process of political transition, we will accelerate to the place of great achievement. Africa can no longer afford to sacrifice its destiny for certain few political agenda. Political stability in regions across the globe is a powerful principle to halve the issue of migration.

In fairness to South Africa

In all fairness to a society that has just ended three centuries of protracted battle of seeking her freedom, liberty and prosperity from the colonial apartheid junta, in my opinion, was not really given the necessary opportunity and space to heal properly, and to effectively disarm her mind from the perpetual war like attitude culture, cultivated in the days of the great resistance and arm struggle, which unfortunately is still the very default template driving the psyche of the society.

A deep rooted challenge

I am convinced in my heart, having lived here for 12 years plus now that there is still so much to do in terms of bringing healing to the deep wounds buried within the social psyche, caused by the past discrimination’s of the blacks and other ethnic groups in the country.

There is no doubt that this discrimination has negatively impacted the social psyche of the general society in terms of its perception and relationship not just with foreigner but also within its own community, and somehow, I feel that there’s a great sense of denial, both from the government and the society to confront this monster of fears, insecurity and pride eating up the heart compassion of the people.

When one consider the various national and socioeconomic issues that has been playing itself out right from the death of Nelson Mandela, up to this very day, one immediately see the need for a true and open debate and discussion in addressing those deep seated unresolved issues centered around racism and land redistribution.

The limitation of TRC and the way forward

While the TRC under the leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu did what it could it terms of trying to redress and reconcile some of the very few glaring issues; it is however clear that with the issues of high level racist challenges the nation has been facing of late, highlight strongly that the past is still very much with us. And if you ask me, I undoubtedly believe that there is a clear direct link from the already tensed racial issues within the society to what could be said to be xenophobia, or Afrophobia as most Africans would like to call it.

I do strongly believe that for the nation of South Africa to truly advance into the next frontier of transformation and economic realization there has to be a collective acknowledgement of the need to face headlong the hidden social wounds of the past. I assumed many in the nation must have felt that after the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoner under the apartheid government, and of cause the ushering in of an elected democratic government was going to be a smooth transition to democracy and prosperity. However, the damage already caused in the social psyche of the nation cannot be addressed or healed by a mere democratic constitutional model.

Beyond the framework of sound constitution  

While good leadership governance can set the precise groundwork for the healing process of the society, it should however be noted that it will take more than what South Africa as a nation pride itself on to bring lasting healing and transformation of mentality. While the nation boast to have one of the best constitutional framework globally, and the economy arguably is not doing too bad in terms of its increase in infrastructural capacity and productive capability.

However, the reality of interpreting these loadable policies framework into practical community centered driven values and principle of empowerment, development and transformation is yet to be seen on a ground zero level.

I arrived in South Africa in 2005, and I can tell you that the very first thing that caught my attention and challenged me for the first three months of my arrival was the numbers of informal settlements and of cause they quality of life people are subjected to In these zinc panel houses called shacks.

The picture of those informal settlements spoke volumes regarding the huge amount of social economic reform and transformation that must take place from the grassroots level if the ANC government wants to remain in leadership in the next 20years.

Many of the blacks and colored community living in these make shift houses are not only marginalized and disenfranchised but are also completely ignorant of the reality of the 21st century board less community that gives opportunity to people to find better quality of life for themselves outside the shores of their country.

The issue is beyond African immigrants

While many of the blacks in particular had lived and are seen to be happy and comfortable for decades with their foreign immigrant friends who came from other Southern African countries to work either in the farms or in the mines. The challenge however seem to be mostly with their fellow Africans coming especially from West Africa, in particular Ghana and Nigeria. While you will hardly find these foreign nationals like Nigerians or Ghanaians living outside their own communities, they however still seem to remain a threat to some South Africans for obvious reasons:

1. Their entrepreneurial business breakthrough culture which gives them the upper hand to work and survive in any given condition.

2. Their vast exposure, knowledge and skill capacity, which obviously makes them an asset to those in search for skilled labor force. And the truth remains that South African  business community is highly aware of the stiff competition out there, especially with the Asian market, and they are desperately in need of highly skilled knowledge based individuals that can enhance their productivity and market drive. In most cases, the people they usually find with such skill are the foreign nationals who already have this skill and training.

With this reality on ground, you cannot blame immigrants for doing a job you are not skill, trained or even willing to learn how to do. The issue here is more of an attitude of pride, insecurity and laziness. While many May disagree with me but the fact remains that most South African young adults are just unwilling to do certain jobs, and if they accept the job, they want to dictate to their boss how they will do the job all in the name of been protected by some labor laws.

I think the issue of orientation regarding the value of labor and money plays a huge role here. Many are not just ready to learn a trade especially from the foreign nationals living within their community or in their place of trade. The economic template of South Africa is more of working in an office for someone rather than being encouraged to start their own business, and to learn the principle of waiting to see it grow gradually.

The principle of suppressing immediate gratification for a long term investment (income) increase is still very much foreign to many in South Africa.  I would strongly encourage many South Africans to take a trip to some of these African countries to see how people actually live and do business.

This can be further encouraged and promoted by some of the South Africa business corporation, operating in some of those countries like MTN, DSTV and SASOL to mention a few. Just the sight of these countries alone will change their perception and orientation of the people.

You can learn how to do business successfully just by observing others. It is amazing to discover that most South African don’t know how to bargain.  Why? The model and structure of marketing here does not promote the ability and value to bargain. Just learning the power to bargain can be so liberating.

I have met some highly respectable wonderful spirit filled South Africans; some have sought to find out from me certain things that bothered them regarding things they’ve had about my country and I in honesty tried to give them clarity and they were quite appreciative. While there are those who were very sarcastic and rude in their manner of approach and questions, obviously because of their preconceived notions.

 It is amazing to know that we live in days of internet connectivity where anyone can basically Google almost anything, and can almost precisely get the answer they desire if they know how to make use of the search engine. Yet, people today, specially here in SA still choose to remain blind and ignorant regarding the world around them, I find this very amusing! The scriptures says pride goes before a fall.

3. Their seemly innate leadership influence which unfortunately is both positive and negative. This believe is born out of the initial mentioned points. If you are seriously concern about your business, you know that you have to develop a leadership skill that will help in presenting and selling your product, which is first defined by how you carry and present yourself.

4. They are generally seen to be loud, proud and to some, very arrogant. While there is an element of truth in this description, unfortunately, they are not a precise description or representative of the general society from West Africa.

 The challenge of poor governance and mismanagement of resource by most African leaders, especially in Nigeria caused many to seek asylum and opportunity in this young democratic society.  Pre 1994, most West African nationals find their way to either Europe or America for opportunities and better life.

 As the immigration policy in Europe gets more difficult for most Africans, especially those from West Africa, South Africa became an alternative destination to gain that economic opportunity due to its well functional infrastructure and institutions.

 Young men and women from the West African sub region longs to compete on a global scale but unfortunately the environment back then does not have the kind of institutions and infrastructural capacity to turn those young minds dream into reality. Therefore, they made South Africa their next preferred destination.

 Most of these west Africa young adults came to further their academic education here in South Africa due to its internationally recognized certification, and most of them today have become great contributors to the growing economy of the nation of South Africa and the entire African continent.

 One thing I can confidently say about the west Africans, both young and old is that they possess that innate drive that not a person or circumstance regardless of how difficult, can dither them from attaining their set goal to succeed.

 This drive in most cases here are seen to arrogant or prideful. There is a need to understand the common paradigm of thinking of both South African and their African brothers if there is going to be a working together. Like I said, foreign national from West Africa are great achievers; they strongly believe in the principles of hard work, breakthrough and possibilities.

 They never take no for an answer regardless of the obstacles. Unfortunately, these West Africans who made their way into South Africa for obvious reasons were not however sensitive or considerate of the horrific historic baggage’s the society still carry with little help in discerning and dealing with these unseen dysfunctional emotional scar.

The fragility of their new found host became the very opportunity the enemy needed to trigger and awaken those still fresh memories of the long seasons of marginalization, disenfranchisement and dispossession. The major problem I see here is that of wrong perception, and perception is mostly caused by the lack of precise knowledge or wrong information if you will.

In fact in my findings, I discovered that very hand full of South Africans know very little about other African countries, and this ignorance to some large degree, contributed to the hash reception the migrants receive when they arrived here.

I have had my own share of misjudgment by those who already nursed a preconceived notion about those who are from Nigeria in particular. As a spiritual leader who is here on a divine mandate, I still struggle to get across to some people here who believed I must have a hidden agenda for coming to their country.  Such attitude makes you wonder if these so called spiritual leaders do actually understand what the scripture says regarding global discipleship and evangelization. I doubt it if you ask me.

 There is nothing I have not had said to me directly or indirectly in insinuating that I am a fake preacher for the fact that the truth we preach and teach challenge the blind traditional position of the people. There is nothing more dangerous that for spiritual leaders in a community to feel insecure of their other fellow preachers. The assignment of the kingdom of God cannot thrive in an environment of self-driven competition. Pastors have literally said to people not to come to my meetings not because I preach a false doctrine or have forced people to give me money, but just because I am a Nigerian.

 The fact is, I do not blame these so-called pastors because some of them might have seen or had some bad experience from few elements who came in the name of the Lord and have taken undue advantage of the people. However, as believers and followers of the Lord, there should be a keen sense of insight and discernment to identify those who are lying from those telling the truth.

 As I have emphasized in my first article that there is some much we can learn from each other, but this can only start when there true change of how we view each other. Respect and honor must precedes this process. Openness and tolerance for each other must be the foundation. What I am suggesting must be seen beyond mere trade between two countries, that is already taking place from an international trade policy perspective.

 I am referring to a community drive initiative whew there is a synergy of ideas, resources, capacity and skill monitored by someone or groups with little or no political agenda. There is a need to facilitate forums on a practical community levels where we can exchange of some of the innate economic driven values, idea and principle various Africa continents apply in buying and selling.

 And on a more secondary Levels, we can share short history stories and cuisine from various African countries where funds can even be raised to assist certain areas of the community. It is no secret that South African are one the largest consumers of Nollywood movies. Well, that is a very good forum to highlight and deal with Issues of Afrophobia, stereotypes, misconception and of cause, misrepresentation.

 Churches and other community development agencies need to be seriously encouraged by the government and other stockholders to buy into what I call a real, sincere, reform, community integration project in collaboration especially with the foreign nationals living within the community. At these forums, there can be an exchange of skill and other vital knowledge that can help the community to accelerate in growth and development.

 Government can directly engage with churches and known community leaders in partnership within some of the known skilled foreign nationals living in the community to directly or indirectly build and up-skill the capacity of their citizens.  This can be a win situation for everyone.

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