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By SOLAPE LAWAL-SOLARIN
ALAS! The siege was finally over. Millions of blacks; Madiba’s kinsmen who had been subjected to inhumane condition by a policy that laid ambush and preyed on their human worthiness for close to a century had finally crumbled, giving way to a new order.
Apartheid it was. A monstrous and horrific policy that did not only rip to bare bones the essence of human value and dignity but, also turned South Africa’s blacks into strangers in their own homeland-A reverse policy of the absurd perpetrated by the colonialists that incited and swelled black activism within the country and the continent.
Hence, it was a huge relief to South Africa’s majority black people who are the owners of this prime land endowed with aesthetic natural splendour and plentiful resources to witness its demise in 1994-Thanks to the gallantry and heroic effort of Nelson Mandela.
Mandela was the last man standing. He was the torch-bearer of hope for his hopeless people during the dark days. The baton had simply fallen into his hand (either by accident or not) and ‘Madiba’ as he’s fondly called by his kinsmen never shied away from the weight of the responsibility. He paid the sacrifice and secured his people freedom from ‘Egypt’ and became a symbol of love, forgiveness and unification because of the role he played when he became South Africa’s first black President.
Those were the years of hope, optimism and positive energy-A period when the rainbow stood still and glowed vibrantly for the country at the tip of the continent.
However, in recent years, this rainbow that once stood still seems to be swaying. Its once glowing lights seem to be dimming since Madiba’s glorious exit to join his ancestors. And current socio-economic unrest that led to widespread xenophobic attacks against fellow Africans and immigrants have shown that the rainbow might have departed South Africa.
Recent xenophobic attacks on African immigrants, most especially Nigerians, were among the worst cases of violence against foreigners in the country’s history of xenophobia. This is not the first time black South Africans will turn against black immigrants. It happened in 2005, 2007 and last year. But, 2017 attacks had a dangerous twist. This time, immigrants who felt abandoned by South African authorities took up a defensive posture to protect their lives and investments while on the continent, it got Pretoria enmeshed in a messy diplomatic standoff with long-time ally and a major powerhouse in Nigeria.
The latter considered as the ‘giant of Africa’ has a well-documented friendly and robust relationship with South Africa that was further cemented during the ‘dark days’ of apartheid in the 70s and 80s.
Africa’s most populous country gave ‘a shoulder to cry on and a reassuring voice’ to South Africa’s ANC party and their freedom fighters. It is no news that one-time president, Thabo Mbeki, was one of many South Africans’ recipient of these numerous goodwill and support from the Nigerian government as he benefitted from a free scholarship to study at the impressive University College, Ibadan now known as University of Ibadan.
But how come a nation that earned the moniker “the rainbow country” thanks to Nelson Mandela lose her sense of history, struggle, African solidarity and most importantly the legacy left behind by the great ‘Madiba’? It is a question that even Madiba would struggle to answer in his mausoleum. 23 years after political freedom was secured, the hysteria, optimism, belief and exuberant flame that had been displayed by the blacks have now been replaced by hopelessness, disappointment and disillusionment.
The promises of a better life and employment that the ANC leadership had promised have not materialized; and if it did, only few; few within the ruling party and their cronies benefitted.
It is just a sad tale of how hopes of millions have been dashed seeing that their impoverished situations have not improved despite the collapse of apartheid. The ANC government have somewhat lost vision and touch.
Rather than improve on Madiba’s legacies on the political front by galvanizing itself towards severing blacks from an economically induced apartheid, they have been caught up in the thrills and frills of political office thereby ignoring this dire aspect of their people’s socio-economic life. It is a sickening situation that the recent xenophobic attacks have somehow deflected attention from the leadership of the ANC and at the same time covered up the ruling party’s shortcomings.
South Africa’s economy is still largely under the control of the settlers. A burgeoning economy built on the back of apartheid that has created a huge wealth gap and class between the whites and the blacks.
Although, it is a tough task; undoing almost a century old state-backed inhumane policy that deliberately relegated and disenfranchised them economically, however, the successive ANC governments of Thabo Mbeki and current administration of Jacob Zuma, have not done enough on the economic front.
The recent xenophobic attacks and the previous ones are good indicators of how the ANC leaders have failed on the economic report sheet. And their failure to rein in the excesses of their unemployed youths, who attacked, killed and maimed Nigerians and other African citizens should be a blame they must accept.
The attacks against Nigerians and other African immigrants reek of cowardice, ingratitude and anti-Madiba philosophy. And in this tensed moments, Jacob Zuma must find diplomatic ways to pacify African countries affected by the violence.
Lawal-Solarin writes from Lagos