SISHUWA Sishuwa says African countries with failed leadership have put a strain on South Africa which has been receiving a lot of immigrants from such countries.
And Dr Sishuwa has attributed xenophobic attacks in South Africa to extremely high levels of inequality in that country.
In a keynote speech at the University of Cape Town on May 22 to mark the celebration of Africa Freedom Day, Dr Sishuwa, a lecturer at the University of Zambia, said the southern African country was being made to pay for the failures of other countries in the region.
His presentation, titled Africa Day in the age of xenophobia: another perspective, focussed on identifying the underlying causes of xenophobia in South Africa.
‘’In a sense, South Africa is paying for the failures of leadership and policies of other African countries. Why would citizens of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Nigeria or indeed any other African country prefer to trek to South Africa to be poor in the slums of Kwazulu Natal or Alex, and risk being beaten or killed than stay in Harare, Lusaka, Maputo, Lilongwe, or Lagos?’’ he asked.
‘’It is because they feel that they have reached a dead end in their countries, that their national political leaders have failed them. It is that sense of hopelessness and despair that drives the energetic segment of the population, including those without formal qualifications and the requisite papers, to escape from their territorial prions of destitution in search of a better life. Ineffective or incompetent leaders in the SADC region are putting a considerable strain on South Africa.’’
Dr Sishuwa called on leaders of failed African countries to check themselves before condemning xenophobic attacks in South Africa. He argued that one country could not meet all the needs of other countries.
‘’The leaders of these countries where those on the receiving end of these barbaric attacks hail from must engage in critical self-examination before they hypocritically condemn South Africa for failing to take care of their citizens who ran away from such countries precisely because of the tragic failures of those who are complaining. One country cannot meet the aspirations and failed dreams of the region or indeed an entire continent,” Dr Sishuwa emphasised.
He dismissed the common belief that such xenophobic attacks were a sign of ungratefulness to countries that helped liberate South Africa.
Dr Sishuwa said none of the countries that helped South Africa did so with expectations, but as a pure act of solidarity.
‘’The attacks are a result of structural issues, exemplified by a heap of undiluted poverty, mass unemployment and extreme inequalities within the South African society, the SADC region and across the African continent,’’ he explained.
‘’This is not a justification for their occurrence, but helps explain why they occur. Statistics show that South Africa, for instance, is the most unequal country on earth. It is characterised by uneven development between one part of the country, mainly those inhabited by blacks, and another, mainly the urban suburbs which shelter the majority of the white segment of the population. People are flocking from rural areas to urban slums, which sustain extreme forms of inequality. Xenophobic attacks are, in this struggle for survival, the highest consequences of this inequality.”
He said official figures put the rate of unemployment in South Africa at 26 per cent.
“Out of this figure, only about seven per cent of those unemployed are whites. The result is the mass poverty we see in black communities, worsening the already high rate of destitution bequeathed by apartheid. Less jobs also means that the level of taxation is so low that the State cannot rely on the collected revenue to adequately police poverty,” noted Dr Sishuwa.