By Wisdom Mumera
Xenophobia has come around again for about the third time in recent years and it should now be apparent that there are deeper issues to the senseless killings.
South Africa’s xenophobic scenes, about the third since 2008, are the latest in what is actually a global manifestation of the inequality-induced tension and the quest by the lower classes to survive in an increasingly elitist and capitalist world.
The underlying issue when the Occupy Movement began demonstrations on Wall Street in 2017 was financial inequality and it was a factor when Canadian students took to the streets to protest against tuition hikes in 2012.
In 2018 France had the ‘gilets jaunes’ (Yellow Vests) who began as a protest movement against a planned rise in the tax on diesel and petrol.
What began as a fuel tax protest later morphed into a wider anti-government movement.
Zimbabwe has had its own episodes of similar class demonstrations including those recently prohibited.
The problem with South Africans is that they are venting their anger against the wrong people.
According to Global Inequality, an organization studying and measuring the phenomenon, “inequality has been on the rise across the globe for several decades.
“Some countries have reduced the numbers of people living in extreme poverty but economic gaps have continued to grow as the very richest amass unprecedented levels of wealth”.
The world’s wealthiest individuals, those owning over $100,000 in assets, total less than 10 percent of the global population but own 84 percent of global wealth according to the organization.
This has left the poor scrambling for little and in the South African, case venting their anger against fellow poverty-stricken classmates whilst the really rich are still out there hoarding more.
Africa, as the most undeveloped continent, is home to the bulk of the world’s poorest some of whom have found their way to South Africa which is one of the strongest economies on the continent.
There, they have met with equally impoverished South Africans who emerged from the apartheid era with nothing but the paper for political independence and were bundled into a rainbow nation with little in terms of rebalancing the scales of economic freedom.
The setup has not worked for the black masses who remain marginalised economically with a great divide between them and the white economic masters.
“Unless there is a massive, targeted investment similar to the massive, targeted investments that historically appropriated wealth to white communities” no amount of hard work is going to spring the poor black masses out of the mire of colonially fostered poverty.
The white person rose to a position of financial eminence on the back of cheap labour and resources, and racially biased protectionist schemes.
To expect the black masses in South Africa to rise up in a capitalist environment of private and free enterprise without the same or equal support mechanisms is both an utopian and historically blind belief.
Many scholars have written about how African economies were advancing, especially in the area of trade, until the significant impact of colonialism, the Atlantic Slave Trade and new political systems altered patterns of development, ways of life and impaired the black future.
South Africans today finds themselves weighted by the Capitalist system which allows and promotes free enterprise and its citizens feel they cannot survive the cutthroat competition and need protection from foreigners.
However, it’s not the foreigners who have eaten away the big national cake.
The system has rewarded cartels of capitalists, mirrored in the Guptas scandal and the recent Ramaphosa “capture” scandal, but, beyond cheap politicking, they are yet to prosecute those cases rigorously as the prime examples of what is wrong with their nation.
Capitalism, the remaining survivor after the death of Communism and other derivatives of communalism, supports, glorifies and rewards individualism and free enterprise and has no conscience for affirmative action to address historical imbalances.
However, the South Africans, watching Nigerians, Zimbabweans, Mozambicans and other Africans coming in and ‘seemingly making it’ in life in their country have failed to appreciate that the enemy isn’t the fellow African but the system bequeathed to them.
What South Africans should be agitating for is a fundamental reorientation of the economic and political systems of their nation such that they can be empowered to really rise economically as entrepreneurs and landowners.
Mugabe tried it in Zimbabwe in the 2000s with the Land Reform Program and the Indigenization drive but failed to run it properly, infusing too much politics and expired banditry, resulting in an economic implosion persisting up to now.
Julius Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has spoken about taking the land and the ANC has also hinted at the same.
Refined better and thought through dispassionately, these are the overtures that may change the inequality gap but, as Zimbabwe has shown, they are a delicate bomb.
In its current state, of aping capitalist capitals of the world South Africa will remain seriously divided along the financial equality gap and the black masses will continue hating upon the wrong enemy.
The Africans flooding South Africa are mere outcomes fleeing inequality prevailing in their own nations’ systems, either of the old white people still reigning supreme or, in the majority, the new elitist class of politicians who replaced the colonial master (like in Zimbabwe)
Burning or chasing out Zimbabweans or Mozambiquans will not create much economic space for the South Africans since they all occupy a limited space that won’t suffice to satiate the hunger for equality which is what the South Africans are actually aggrieved for.
Expressed through xenophobia is a subconscious desire for equality, a nagging mental recognition that since 1994 what has changed is the national name only and nothing much.