I am a South African. I think South Africans are pathetic Africans, we are apathetic Africans.
I find it to be ironic that of the 55 countries in Africa we are one of two countries that has Africa in the name of the republic yet we have tendencies that illustrate a lack of interest and even repulsion of the continent and its people. I watched with interest the messages on social networks during the recent African Cup Of Nations tournament that was recently hosted by South Africa after civil strife in Libya made that country an untenable host. As soon as Bafana Bafana was knocked out, to the shock of nine or none of us, the attention of my compatriots turned to announcing our xenophobia. They must go home now. Nigerians bring drugs to our country. When the tournament is over everyone who came for the tournament must go home. AFCON must be broadcast on Africa magic…
Let me concede that most people mean no harm however that is the same excuse sexists and racists use and thus it remains indefensible, even if I did find myself laughing at the suggestion that we wanted to watch a soapie on a particular TV channel and the biggest football tournament in the continent had to take a backseat. I think two things contribute to what I term our apathetic and pathetic attitude towards fellow Africans. 1. People are simply ignorant. 2. Related to the first point where we have knowledge it is related to what Chimamanda Adichie calls ‘the danger of a single story. We think we know it all but in actual fact we tend to be as ignorant about our continent as the stereotypical American is about the rest of the world.
To elaborate on what I am saying one must adopt a historical perspective with the aptly titled ‘Scramble for Africa, being a watershed moment. According to About.com and Mr Vesazie, my high school History teacher, the Scramble for Africa took place in 1880-1900 and was a period of rapid colonization of Africa by various European powers such as Britain, Holland, Belgium and Portugal. This scramble happened to suit the economic, social and economic lust of Europe at the expense of Africa whose citizens still suffer the consequences of this period and slavery that preceded it. I draw on this historical fact to illustrate that the borders that make up the different African states were socially constructed to fulfill the needs of non-Africans. Thus an inherent division amongst African people is the figment of the minds of those who suffer from untainted ignorance. Being xenophobic towards someone purely on the basis that they are from Zimbabwe is thus nonsensical because they may just be in your family bloodline. The overlap in languages, customs and cultural nuances should be taken as evidence of our similarity as opposed to overemphasis of the differences that have developed with the passing of time.
Our lack of interest in learning about people from other African countries results in accepting stereotypes as untestable truths. Chimamanda Adichie, a Nigerian writer and thinker extraordinaire, asserts that the danger of stereotypes lies not in them being untrue but rather in the incompleteness of the truths they present. Thus when we label all Nigerians as drug lords we never give ourselves the chance to learn and interact with Nigerians who are academics, students and unemployed refugee seekers. I need not remind people of the role played by African countries such as Zimbabwe,Tanzania, Namibia, Zambia and Angola in assisting the ANC/MK and PAC/POQO exiles during the liberation struggle. It would be unAfrican and against the spirit of Ubuntu to imply that South Africans must be ‘nice’ to other Africans because they were nice to us during Apartheid. Humanity is embedded in Africans, there is no need for us to be lectured on it. The ultimate act of ignorance is within the South African football fraternity when club sides or the national teams complain of conditions when playing in the continent “the conditions in Africa are always difficult for us. Last time I checked South Africa was in Africa not in some place between Africa and Europe.
South African’s know more about America and the United Kingdom then we do about what happens in our own continent. For this both the citizens and government are to blame. The Afrrican renaissance is failing partly because of the inferiority complex that engulfs our leaders. For example we have tried education curricula from as far off as Australia when education systems in some parts of our continent such as in Zimbabwe are known worldwide for producing learned, hardworking and skilled individuals. I attended an awards ceremony for the top performing students in the Humanities and most of the students receiving awards were international students from Zimbabwe and Mozambique amongst other countries. The same people we treat like they have leprosy unless of course we looting their shops because they were born in Somalia and they are stealing our women. We continue to import ‘knowledge, clothing and yes ladies your hair too, from everywhere except our own continent thus maintaining our being aspirational towards European and detesting of that which is African.
Stephen Hawking, the physicists who continues to defy science, states that “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge”. Be informed and think critically about your country and continent. Why was Mali under siege by a group of rebels who hide behind Shaira law to carry out despicable acts, such as destroying Timbuktu which remains one of the clearest indicators of Africa’s ability for autonomous development and subsequent self reliance? Why was it France that acted first and not the so called African Union? It is an illusion of knowledge for you to think you clued up simply because you know that president Zuma’s government gave R90 million aid to Mali. We cannot hold our government responsible for not intervening in countries like Zimbabwe or South Sudan when the only thing we know is who is cheating on who in our favourite soap drama.
Now it is African who are pulling Africa apart!