Lessons from South Africa

Pic: Afronline.org

I still am at a loss for words on the xenophobic attacks in South Africa and have engaged with a number of friends in this discussion in the last couple of days. Some have voiced that it is quite obvious on why this happened and indeed keeps happening; increased inequality, lack of jobs and poverty levels in the country. Others have blamed it on a poor education system in South Africa while others have pinned it on the growing ineptitude in  leadership both within and out of the country. A former member of parliament from Zimbabwe recently came out vehemently blaming the Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, for the unfortunate events because scores of Zimbabwean refugees have found themselves helpless and hopeless in a country that they envisioned to deliver them out of these very misgivings when they ran away from their native homes due to a collapsed economy. Indeed all these observations are true but I still can’t grapple with how one would pick a machete or light a fire to cause harm to one’s fellow brother and sister. Is this what we have become? A continent doomed to display the 4 D’s? Death, Disaster, Destruction and Disease? Is this what we are destined to be? Hopeless?

I like many of you are angry, this is both unacceptable and a grave embarrassment. South Africa which is seen to be a big brother to many nations across the continent could and should have done better! I pray that the families there do receive optimum security and that even those being evacuated may one day return to their jobs with renewed hope and dexterity. One school of thought believes that creating more jobs will stop this menacing attacks but I tend to disagree.

One hard lesson that South Africa has taught a couple of us is that rating economic progress in its individuality is regressive. A country cannot be successful without the success of its people and I do not mean success in the economic sense. No amount of jobs can teach a nation to be tolerant, compassionate and ethical to their fellow man. It takes conscious undoing of imbibed warped social ideologies to do this. Borrowing from Kwame Nkrumah, one of our founding fathers, independence from colonialism is not independence in its entirety, independence stems from the mind and Africans alike need to begin having difficult dialogues on who we are as a people. One cannot know where they are going as a continent if we cannot address our past and the challenges that come with it. For those of us with siblings we know that from time to time our older loved ones do need to be held accountable where they have failed, or even told off when they are out of line. Sometimes it also calls for tough love and assistance. South Africa cannot deal with this challenge alone. Does addressing our past mean a complete repudiation of colonial ideologies that are embedded in identities? Or does it mean embracing the old and finding solutions to it? What does Pan-Africanism mean to you and I? Our brother’s down south have posed us with a great number of questions.

All the misery on the planet arises due to a personalized sense of ‘me’ or ‘us’. That covers up the essence of who you are. When you are unaware of that inner essence, in the end you always create misery. It’s as simple as that. When you don’t know who you are, you create a man-made self as a substitute for your beautiful divine being and cling to that fearful and needy self. Protecting and enhancing that false sense of self then becomes your primary motivating force.”- Eckhart Tolle

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