Category Archives: Society

When Genocide hides behind ‘Xenophobia’

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Unless you live under a rock with no access to satellite TV and the internet (in which case you probably won’t be reading this anyway), you HAVE to have heard about the random, brutal killing, maiming and general terrorizing of foreigners by South Africans in Durban, Johannesburg, and basically anywhere lazy black South Africans can be found accross their national territory.

I have watched the video of Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini’s speech in which he incited South Africans against foreigners, and it brought tears to my eyes and rage to my heart.  It is one thing to face discrimination, and it is another to lose your life over it. What makes it worse is that majority of the immigrants in South Africa are regular, middle-class folks working hard to eke out a decent life for themselves. Unfortunately,I have personally come across the disdain and disrespect black Africans face in South Africa (I alluded to it in passing here , but for personal reasons, decided not to follow up with a more explicit story as I had initially planned), and all I can say is, I do not look forward to the day i have to try to set foot in South Africa again.

What has really set me off this afternoon, though, is reading a story sent to me on Facebook by a friend – this story was written by Lovelyn Chidinma Nwadeyi, a Nigerian living in South Africa, and has literally brought tears to my eyes. It lays bare the injustices African immigrants (and visitors) face in South Africa, and is a must-read for any one who has on opinion on the current situation there. I have copied and pasted the article below from the SAPeople website. It is long, but worth the read.

Growing up in South Africa, I was always reminded by those around me that I was different to everyone else. In primary school, I had a much darker complexion than I do now, and super white teeth – the telling marks of a foreigner that betray you even when you put on your best English accent. It is just too obvious.

I bear citizenship of both worlds. I speak fluent Xhosa, Igbo, Afrikaans and English. I can make sense of Tswana and Sotho. I enjoy a good braai, I love vetkoek and bunny-chow. I can’t get enough of Bokomo WeetBix, I love Ouma’s rusks and I can pull off my panstulas with any outfit on a lazy Saturday when I want to head to town. I am the first to break it down with the ngwaza and the dombolo at the sound of some decent house music or kwaito be it in Pick n Pay or at a party.

I can sokkie and I enjoy it (albeit with my two left feet). My darkest moments can be reversed by koeksisters and a cup of rooibos tea any day. I can jump between the high pitched and arguably annoying accents of some Constantia moms, the lank kif and apparently sophisticated English of my Hilton brothers and the heavy accents of my fellow Eastern Capers. I can attempt the fast paced, lyrical Afrikaans of my coloured brothers in the Cape and I can serve you the best butternut soup you have ever known.

I am as South African as you need me to be.

But my ability to navigate all these spaces did not just happen. Learning to blend into all these spaces was a matter of survival for me.

You see from the day I set foot in Queenstown and started primary school, it was always made very clear to me that I was an outsider. I only had white friends from my first few years in school, because the other black girls couldn’t understand why I was black but only spoke in English. They thought I thought I was better than them. So I spent most of my breaks humbly eating my peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich, surrounded by those who had Melrose cheese and Provita Crackers with Bovril and/or marmite sandwiches in their lunchboxes. The rest of the time I spent alone, save the few brave souls of similar complexion who tried to befriend me.

What nobody knew was that for the first three years of my life in South Africa, my little brother and I barely saw my dad more than twice a month. What was he doing absent from the home, other than selling pillowcases, duvets and bedsheets, from door to door on foot through the streets, villages and side roads of the old Transkei and Ciskei? My father would leave the house on Monday mornings after him and my mom got us ready for school, and he would be gone for days and weeks, selling the few pillowcases and bedsheets he had from door to door. On foot. We were never sure when he would return. But when he did, we were always more grateful for his safety and aliveness than anything else.

From Queenstown to Cala, Umtata, Qumbu, Qoqodala, Whittlesea, Mount Fletcher, King Williamstown, Mdantsane, Bhisho, Indwe, Butterworth, Aliwal North and even as far as Matatiele and Kokstad. There are so many other places he went to that I do not even know.

That is how my parents put us through school, until they saved up enough money to open their own little shop where they then started selling sewing machines, cotton and then community phones. Then sweets and chips and take-aways; and then hair products and the list goes on and on. It was on this that I was able to go through primary school, high school, and university. My parents have no tertiary education; it was only in their late 40s that both of them decided to register for part-time studies at Walter Sisulu to get their Diplomas. Note: Diplomas.

It took them four years, because they were busy trying to keep their kids in school, and keep selling their sweets and sewing machines while attempting to dignify their efforts with a degree.

My story is not unique – it is the story of most foreigners in South Africa. Very few foreigners come into SA with skills that make them employable here. Unless you are a medical doctor, an academic and maybe an engineer or well-established businessman before coming here, your chances of getting meaningful employment in SA are as limited as those of the United States letting Al-Qaeda members off the hook – almost impossible.

Most foreigners come to SA with the ability to braid hair, carve wood, or sell fruits, veggies, clothes, fizz pops, carpets and soap before they can find their feet here. Some are graduates…but what can another African degree do for you in SA? And any foreigner in SA will tell you that that is the truth. All of us started from below the bottom. Doing work that carries no dignity, no respect and very little financial gain. But when you have left or lost everything that you know and love and end up in a foreign land as unwelcoming in its laws and restrictions as South Africa, you have little choice available to you.

I can bet you that there is not up to 10% of South Africans who would be willing to do the menial and embarrassing work my parents and other foreigners did for as long as they did it, and for as little as they did it, were you to ask them today. So it annoys me, to the deepest part of my being when I see a South African open their mouth and cry “foul” against innocent foreigners. Let’s discuss this:

Arachnophobia – the fear of spiders.

Claustrophobia – the fear of small/tight/enclosed spaces.

Xenophobia – the fear of foreigners.

However individuals who are afraid of spiders do not go around killing spiders, rather they avoid spiders. Equally, individuals who are afraid of small and tight spaces do not go around trying to eliminate the existence of small spaces.

Thus xenophobia does not by definition imply the killing of foreigners. Yet, we continue to label this current wave of killings and murders in SA as xenophobic – and now the cooler term – “Afrophobic” attacks. Can we please just get real? What is happening in SA is a genocide, a genocide fuelled by a deep-seated hatred for which no single foreigner is responsible.

Before, you say this is too extreme, allow me to explain.

Genocide is the systematic/targeted killing of a specific tribe or race.

In South Africa’s case, this would be the senseless killings of non-South Africans, mostly those of African origin and some Pakistani, Bangladeshi and other non-African minorities.

I think the government, South African and international media are being too cowardly to call it what it is. They know what is going on in South Africa and yet they refuse to acknowledge it for fear of who knows what. Is it because their numbers are not high enough? Should we wait until a few good hundred thousand foreigners have been murdered before we speak the truth?

So now the value of human lives is being reduced to a debate on politically correct terms and phrases to protect certain interests. People are being butchered in the streets, and the country is worrying about bad PR. I hate that now, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, everyone is now trying to say, “Oh no, it’s not all South Africans that are doing this, hey. Just a few of those people there.” South Africans are trying to distance themselves from what is happening in their own backyards as though it is of any consolation to those watching their family members being sizzled in rubber rings. As if that is what matters – true South African style.

This is not the first wave of attacks of this nature in South Africa. In fact, the 2008 attacks were much worse in terms of raw numbers of casualties suffered than these have been so far. The issue of xenophobia is not a new one in SA. However, the differentiator in 2015 is that this wave is backed by a strong ideology; that somehow these attacks can be and are justified.

An ideology that sees merit in the argument that foreigners are stealing the jobs of locals, that they are stealing their women, that these “makwerekwere” are the cause of most ills in South African society.

It is a shame how uninformed and how baseless these arguments are. Foreigners do not and CANNOT steal jobs in SA. Do you know how hard it is to get South African papers, just to get into the country – not to talk of getting a work permit and convincing any company to take on the cost of employing you as a foreigner? Unless you have some freaking scarce skills in the country – it just does not happen like that.

Secondly, just shut up and stop it. South Africans who embibe these arguments are lazy. There is a disgusting entitlement that is attached to this notion that jobs can be stolen. This implies that there are jobs waiting for you – of which there are none.

There are no freaking jobs waiting for anyone. Pick up a bucket and start washing cars. Put on your shoes and walk through your streets, sell tomatoes, eggs and tea – anything people eat, they will buy. Or pick up a book, hustle your way into university, work for a scholarship and get yourself an education. But stop this senselessness. Nobody is stealing your jobs.

I got my first job when I was 11-years-old. I worked on the school bus in my town. I collected money for the bus driver, wrote out receipts and kept order on the bus. I didn’t get paid much, but it helped me learn first that nothing comes easy, I learnt to be responsible and accountable to someone else. Secondly it helped me pay for little extramural expenses I did at school which were not the priority for my parents at the time (and rightly so). In ‘varsity, even though I had a tuition bursary, I worked two part-time jobs and one contract job for the entire three years at Stellenbosch so I could pay for my good, clothes and some additional materials etc. Yes my parents supported me as best they could, but naturally, part of growing up is that you don’t bother your parents for every Rand you need.

So people see me and my family now, several years later driving a decent car and living in an average house and they say, “Ningama kwekwere, asinifuni apha. Niqaphele, aningobalapha.

“You are foreigners, we do not want you here. You better watch out, you are not of this place,” – unaware of and unwilling to hear of the years of struggle and hustle that came with the decent car and the average house. [Which, by the way, you can never fully own as SA law now restricts ownership of property by foreigners – but that is another discussion.]

And what has been the government’s response to the worsening unemployment and crime situation in the cities and suburbs that incites this violence and dissatisfaction amongst its people? To tighten immigration laws, border controls and any little room the foreigner may have had to just maybe survive in the menacing streets of Johannesburg. As if that is where the problem began.

Is it not the way our economy is structured? That there is limited room for unskilled labour in the workforce? That those who are not vocationally trained must then settle for employment outside of their existing areas of knowledge such as artisans, plumbers and electricians – whereas these skills are equally needed in a developing economy? That we have this thing called BEE which in practice just ensures that the Black bourgeoisie get wealthier by hook or by crook while still protecting and cushioning the impact of democracy on old, white money and big business?

Is it really the little Ethiopian man with his spaza shop that is threatening your progress na Bhuthi? Is it really the Nigerian woman who braids hair and sells Fanta that is stealing your job and place in your own land na Sisi? I can’t deal.

If none of these arguments have merit for you, then think of the fact that during apartheid, Nigeria spent thousands of dollars on the ANC protecting and moving its members across borders; Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania, Burundi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda all housed, supported and/or trained struggle heros with open arms and with no strings attached. How dare South Africans forget how much Africans did for them during apartheid. How dare you!

South Africans, go and learn your history. When you have read your history, then please teach the correct version to your children. Let them know that Africa helped put SA where it is now. Let them know that all blacks are not Xhosa or Zulu, but that that is irrelevant to the amount of dignity you accord to another human being. Teach your children that they must work for everything they want to have except your love as a parent. Teach your children that they are nothing without their neighbour – stop being selective about who Ubuntu applies to and does not. Teach them the truth about you.

The greatest enemy of the black man has always been himself. Not the colonialists. Not the apartheid architects. Only himself.

And as long as you refuse to take responsibility for where you are now, you will remain there. Kill us foreigners or not, it actually makes very little difference to your fortunes in life, people of Mzansi.

Lovelyn Nwadeyi
20 April 2015″

I hope this madness ends quickly, and pray God keeps my loved ones and all innocent persons in Durban, Jo’burg and all of SA safe.

Have you heard of HONY?

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About  seven months ago, I saw a very intriguing picture on Facebook.

Turns out it was profile picture for Humans of New York, a blog by Brandon Stanton.

The blog catalogues Brandon’s pictures of random  people on the streets of New York, and he gets them to talk about themselves. Recently Brandon also went on a tour with the UN to wartorn zones like Afghanistan and Uganda, to name a few, and the pictures he posted from there were a real eye-opener. They did more to open me up to humanity and humanity up to me, than endless news articles and documentaries have ever done. Showed me that we are all really just human beings, with our own pains and fears and hopes and dreams, trying to live life as best as we see fit.

My point, this fine Tuesday morning (when I should be working)? We could all do with a little bit of human empathy and compassion.

Can you tell that the holidays make me emotional and sappy? Urgh.

If you haven’t heard of HONY, and you care about what happens outside your own little bubble of a world, check these out:

(website) www.humansofnewyork.com

(twitter)@humansofny

(instagram)@humansofny

Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!

Some people just never learn…

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So, I woke up this morning to this story right here, with a little background from another story here, and immediately my stomach turned.

In resumé, over 15 Cameroonians have been arrested following lengthy undercover investigations, for Medicaid fraud of millions of dollars.

What is it with lazy people trying to give the rest of us Cameroonians a bad name? And what hurts even more is that some of these people are from my ethnic region. Plus, don’t get me started on the revolting shamelessness of using something as vital as healthcare (which people who are actually sick need) to get rich!

Non-Caucasians in general and Cameroonians in particular in the diaspora complain about discrimination, and ethnic/racial profiling, but sometimes we give our detractors the tools to hurt us. Did the Cameroonian community (those who were not directly involved in the scam) not know what they were doing? Why didn’t someone try to stop them? Why do we think that we can complain about corruption in our country, and then run off and do the same in another man’s country?

I think the Cameroonian government should start instituting punitive measures on such people. In addition to their property/accounts being seized abroad, their property/accounts should equally be seized in Cameroon. Crime should not benefit anyone, irrespective of the country. Maybe an extradition agreement should be looked into.

I’m off to tweet the President about it.

*rant over*

Have you heard this story? What do you think can be done to curb misrepresentation of a country (or region) by its people? Should our government play a part, or are they not responsible for what their citizens do abroad?

These scars of mine

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I’m watching E! News, the ‘Giuliana and Bill’ reality show, *hides face*. It’s the episode after Giuliana has a double mastectomy in her fight against breast cancer, and in explaining her scars to horrified friends, she says:

“I have to live with these scars everyday, but I don’t mind. When I see them, they remind me of a trying period that I have gone through, and that I have overcome.”

Forgive me for being a crybaby, but that brought tears to my eyes. Not only because I also have scars which I can’t run away from no matter how hard I try, but because overcoming is such damn hard business.

Many times in life we pretend that we don’t hurt, we try to hide our pain, to shut down our emotions. However, pain is what makes us human. Emotions are what make us real. Physical, emotional, mental scars may disgust others, and even us, but they represent something that was once living, painful, present, but that we have gone past, that we have gone through. That has healed.

So next time that you look at that horrid scar, that missing limb, think of that trying period, burst into tears at that painful memory, don’t be ashamed to own up to the hurt. Don’t be embarrassed for showing emotion. Be proud of your feelings, because they make you human. Be proud of your scars, because they are your badge of honor – they are proof that you have overcome.

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Forgive and forget.

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*peers at cobwebs*

I’m almost ashamed of how long it’s been since I posted anything. Almost, but not quite. That’s how boring my life has been.

Anyway, on to what brings me here today. Anybody who keeps up with happenings in Nigeria cannot have escaped being bombarded in the last few weeks with news of the killing of 4 young men, students of the University of Port Harcourt. Initial (and much disputed) reports stated that these boys were accused of terrorising a certain local community, Aluu, with armed robbery and rape. Upon sighting of these boys, mob justice swiftly took over – they were beaten, stoned, and finally burnt alive while tens of people stood around and looked, took pictures, and even recorded videos. Pictures and videos of what transpired are available all over the net.

Update: above is the beginning of another post which my phone swallowed mysteriously over a month ago, and regurgitated this afternoon. Thank God for my brilliant mind, which remembers what I was going to say! He he he.

Where were we? Ok.

So about two weeks after, there are people who are signing petitions against mob justice and what not. I even signed one myself. I’m probably going to lose a lot of goodwill, but I have to say this – I’m not entirely convinced mob justice is a total evil, or even that the evil outweighs the good.

I live in a town where mob justice has been the saving grace of many a community. Where the only thing that stands between an entire neighbourhood and anarchy, is 4 tyres, a jerrycan of petrol and a full matchbox.

My issue today is not to exalt the pros of mob justice. It is to concede that actions have reactions. How many of us join in the hue and cry against mob justice, but stand by, watch, and even aid and abet the torture and oppression of the masses? How many of us cut corners, defraud, lie and cheat innocent people in order to get what we want? How many of us steal another person’s money, their dignity, their innocence, their soul?

After having gone through a traumatic experience which brought the capacity of the human heart for wickedness home to me, I cannot guarantee that I would act any different from a common mob member, if I had a chance. I cannot deny that I would not kick, spit on, scratch, bludgeon, burn the person who looked into my eyes, and plunged a knife in my body.

I know is at some point, reason has to prevail over animal instinct. At some point, we have to overcome our basic instinct for revenge, and set a sustainable precedent.

The problem is, when?

When green grass goes brown…

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Ahem ahem. *adjusts mic*

Hello, my dear people! How wona dey? Everything hanging and/or standing as prescribed I hope?

Gosh, I’m horrible at introductions. I think I better just get on with what I have to say.

First though, I gotta apologize for the absence. I was on holiday recently and I’d promised myself that I would blog every week at least, but as you can see,  God’s ways are not our ways, lol. Truth be told I was having so much fun in the sun, sitting behind a computer was the last thing on my mind! Well, until something happened, and my first thought was ‘Gosh I have to blog about that!’. So here I am.

Have you ever seen somebody get deported? As in, kicked out of a country?

I have, and I never want to see it again.

She was of average height, dark, shapely, lovely weave which hung in matted tangles around her face. Her red top looked like it could do with a cycle or two in the washer, and she smelled like she needed to get up close and personal with some soap and a sponge.

That was all I could see within the 15 seconds it took to drag her from the door of the plane, kicking and screaming, to her seat in the rear and strap her in the chair. Like a mad person.

I asked myself…are these the greener pastures we seek abroad? Why are more and more African youth consumed by the dream that is ‘abroad’ (and which often remains just that, a dream), to the point where they spare no thought for the long term repercussions of their actions?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about the ones going to school, working, who have ‘papers’ (ie are not illegal immigrants, and are trying to survive there like I am trying to survive here). I’m talking about the others.

The ones who survive by cheating the system. Who have discovered the joys of scamming, prostitution, and living permanently on credit/welfare/off other people. The ones who spend their lives taking pictures on Facebook with clothes they intend to return the next day, and are more worried about impressing their friends today than building their future. Who share a room with 6 other people, and live in eternal fear of the police/immigration catching up with them. Who after five, seven, ten years abroad have nothing to show for it. These are the ones I’m worried about, the ones I’m talking to.

Why won’t you come back home?

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Showing some well-deserved love to a friend, camer sister, fellow sakerette, etc…go yvy!

Art Becomes You

Several designers showcased at the African Fashion Week New York (AFWNY) . A few of them were proudly Cameroonian. I cannot express enough how proud these girls are making me feel right now. One that stood out especially was the Mesanga Fashion House by designer Mesanga Sama. 
This was her first real real runway showcase and I must say I loved every piece that came strutting down that runway. Gave me chills. It feels good and exhilarating when someone you know personally follows their passion, works hard to achieve their dream and finally triumph. I probably say this a lot but diligence, hard work and faith do pay off.

About the collection.

This collection is called ‘Liwato La Merzono.’  And Mesanga explains that:
“Essentially liwato la merzono means garment of colour in my native tongue Bakweri and that is what I thought of first before I sketched out this collection. It is cosmopolitan and…

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