The Horrible Face of Xenophobia
Xenophobia once again reared its ugly head in South Africa. Social media is ablaze with horrific photos and eyewitness accounts of foreigners being intimidated and even killed by mobs of machete wielding thugs. Bloodthirsty mobs gang up on foreigners, loot their shops, steal their belongings and threaten them with violent deaths. Foreigners, fearing for their lives, run for all they’re worth with only their clothes on their backs. They’re stabbed, burned and slaughtered on the streets – for trying to eke out a living here and calling our country their new home.
News reports sent across the globe portray South Africans as a hateful, intolerant and murderous bunch. It’s hard to comprehend how someone can stab or burn another human being to death. Who’s to blame? The jeering onlookers? The photo journalists that are vying for close-up shots of the macabre scenes? The foreigner who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time? The crazed murderer who metes out a sentence he thinks is justifiable?
What motivates a person to barbarically kill a man who pleads for his life – and that in full view of spectators and cameras? Where does this anger and hate come from? Is it because some foreigners are guilty of criminal activities such as prostitution and drug trafficking and communities are fed up with what’s going on on their doorsteps? Is it because some foreigners take up jobs natives feel they were supposed to get? Is it because some foreigners come to South Africa with nothing but hope and then, through entrepreneurial willpower, guts and sheer hard work, manage to build up successful small businesses and make a decent living?
Then there’s the herd mentality that seems to egg mobs on to commit acts no human being in his right mind would ever contemplate of doing on his own, like pouring petrol over someone and setting him to light. Why do ordinary people become like wild animals when they operate in groups? Look at the faces of looting people – they seem to enjoy what they’re doing!
A lot of debate and action are needed to understand and curtail xenophobia as well as mob mentality. As a nation we cannot tolerate violence in any form and we should stand united against it at all cost. Xenophobia should have no place in the hearts of a rainbow nation. Also, mobs should know they‘re not above the law because they operate in numbers. You’re not faceless when you’re part of a mob – your face may just be plastered on tomorrow’s newspapers!