When Thabo Mbeki was still President of South Africa, on a state visit to Zambia, he could not resist visiting one Lusaka township for which the host government returned the favour by naming a road near there after him.
Mbeki, like many African National Congress (ANC) leaders, spent most of his time in exile in Zambia and the township, M’tendere—meaning peace in some Zambian languages—which was home to many ANC freedom fighters along with Emmasdale, Kaunda Square and Makeni areas of Lusaka which housed a lot of South African exiles.
The South African exiles mingled very freely with ordinary Zambians and called each other Comrade, a term they used a lot among themselves and with those they agreed with on ideological issues particularly those they shared communist literature from Novosti Press Agency at the Soviet Embassy in Lusaka.
The administrative ANC headquarters at which the late Oliver Tambo, Mbeki and others operated from were in Lusaka while the military wing was housed in Tanzania. In fact, Zambia and Tanzania were part of a group of countries that called themselves frontline states along with Mozambique Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and, from 1980, Zimbabwe. I know that Nigeria, very far away from Southern Africa, also considered itself a “frontline” state and did a lot towards the liberation movement.
|King Goodwill Zwelithini|
Some of the frontline states like Zambia suffered bombings at the hands of apartheid South African Defence Forces that were pursuing freedom fighters who operated from the affected countries which had a deleterious effect on the economy in particular and development in general.
The Frontline States were formed in 1970 to co-ordinate their responses to apartheid and formulate a uniform policy towards apartheid government and the liberation movement. For the liberation movement in South Africa, the formation of the Frontline States was a welcome development and a new front in the fight against apartheid.
Mandela Visits Zambia
To appreciate the role Zambia played in the liberation of South Africa and other countries, Nelson Mandela, barely a week after his release from 27 years of incarceration in 1990, visited Zambia first.
When South Africa attained black majority rule back in 1994, the country had the strongest economy on the continent and naturally, attracted a lot of citizens of a lot of sub-Saharan countries trouped to the Rainbow Nation which held a lot of promise for most of them. Some of the people who trekked there were running away from persecution and failed states such as Somalia.
Wikipedia traces discrimination in South Africa to as far back as the Union of South Africa when in the Cape Colony, the Cape Immigration Act (No 30) of 1906 set as requirement the ability to complete an application form in a European language (including Yiddish) and proof of £20 as visible means of support.
The same Wikipedia article traces xenophobic attacks before May 2008 and those after which tended to be more serious leading to loss of lives.“On 12 May 2008 a series of riots started in the township of Alexandra (in the north-eastern part of Johannesburg) when locals attacked migrants from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, killing two people and injuring 40 others.Some attackers were reported to have been singing Jacob Zuma's campaign song Umshini Wami (Zulu: "Bring Me My Machine Gun").
In the following weeks the violence spread, first to other settlements in the Gauteng Province, then to the coastal cities of Durban and Cape Town.
Attacks were also reported in parts of the Southern Cape, Mpumalanga, the North West and Free State.”
But the xenophobic attacks this time around were apparently kicked off by the statement by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini late in March:
“We are requesting those who come from outside to please go back to their countries… The fact that there were countries that played a role in the country’s struggle for liberation should not be used as an excuse to create a situation where foreigners are allowed to inconvenience locals… I know you were in their countries during the struggle for liberation. But the fact of the matter is you did not set up businesses in their countries.”
Surprisingly, even South African President Jacob Zuma’s eldest son, Edward, also supported Zwelithini’s call to kick out foreigners.
Dlamini-Zuma Blames Criminals
African Union Commission chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a South African citizen and former wife of President Zuma, is quoted to have blamed criminals for the xenophobic attacks on foreigners. Zuma’s position is made all the more difficult as an AU leader but for me, she no longer deserves that position. South Africa has lost the moral standing of being the head of the continental body.
The AU finds itself in the position in which the United Nations found itself in 1994 in Rwanda when it watched the situation leading to genocide in which 1 million people lost their lives by doing nothing at all. Dlamini-Zuma is blaming “criminals” when it knows the source of the attacks—King Zwelithini who deserves to be hauled before the International Criminal Court for kicking off the ugliest episode yet in post-apartheid South Africa.
If Dlamini-Zuma doesn’t resign on her own, she should be kicked out of her position at the AU and King Zwelithini carted off to The Hague. As a South African, the AU chairperson cannot call for unity from anyone if she cannot control people in her own country and blaming criminals when the instigator is enjoying his throne.
[Photo credit: Wikipedia]