By Morak Babajide-Alabi

There are various video clips circulating on social media networks of the xenophobic attacks going on in the former apartheid country, South Africa. When I first came across one of these clips earlier this week, my initial reaction was to ignore it and turn over to reputable broadcast news outlets to see if I can get more stories and probably watch “clean” videos of these attacks.

While I was “reading up” on these attacks, the video clips became viral on social media networks. I restrained myself from watching any of them because I was sure they would be very gory. In the same vein, there were lots of horror stories coming out of the Mandiba country. Many of these stories were told by African brothers and sisters who had, out of fear for their lives, took early exits from the country.

After a while, I was inclined to click one of these clips, so I could put pictures of the stories I heard. But I restrained myself because naturally, I take more than a “little” caution in watching video clips on social media. Being a “student” of the social media network, I realised very early that hackers and scammers do use video clips to get access to users’ most personal details. I know quite a few “good” people whose reputations were “soiled” for clicking these online video clips. They had no knowledge, that by watching these clips, though, in the privacy of their homes, they had become “conduits” for posting nude or pornographic contents on the internet.

I do not watch any of the “much-advertised” and circulated Islamic States (IS) videos or those of the “animals in human skin” Shekau-led Boko Haram. Apart from the fact that they may be too gory for me, I also think watching and sharing the videos of these terrorists is like encouraging their dastardly acts. Why would I want to watch or share the video of a man slashing the throat of another human being, just because he thinks he can play god?

These clips have become so popular that some people watch them online for entertainment values. They not only watch, they think they owe their friends the duty of forwarding the videos to them. I often query the state of mind of the sharers and ask, what they hope to achieve by the sharing or tagging?

On Thursday morning, a friend of mine forwarded one of the South African video clips to me with the accompanying message: “This is probably the worst video I had seen in recent times. Let me know your views after watching.” My heart sank when I read his message. With the reviews, I read online about these clips I had an idea of what the clips would contain. But I still asked myself if I was emotionally ready for it.

The video clip was a gory sight to watch, as human beings (foreigners) were tied up, doused in what looked like petrol and set on fire. It was very graphic. The most distressful part of the clip was onlookers urging the attackers on. It was too much for me to watch, so I stopped it and deleted it from my system.

I could not get over what I saw in the clip. I sank into my chair and questioned the sensibilities of these South Africans who had descended to the levels of animals in relating to their fellow Africans. I was quick to remind myself that this was actually not the first time South Africans have shown their xenophobic tendencies.

My insight into the height of hatred the South Africans have for their African and Asian brothers and sisters was in 2008 when I was on a chat with a close friend of mine who was resident in the country. He informed me of his intention to relocate out of the country because according to him “these South African brothers are becoming funny.” He told me how earlier in the week, a few locals had come to his house to harass and threaten to kill him if he did not get out of South Africa.

Back then, I had no idea what to make of his comments. A few weeks after the chat with my friend, the news of South Africans killing foreigners, especially Africans, shocked the world. And ever since, it had become an annual news item.

This year I have heard all the stories coming from South Africa. I had read a few weeks ago that the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini called on foreigners to pack their bags and go back to where ever they came from. This, no doubt had buoyed the confidence of his people, as they poured out on to the streets, looting shops owned by foreigners and hacking them down.

With the blame for the new attacks placed at the doorstep of King Goodwill Zwelithini, he wasted no time in denying the story credited to him about foreigners. The king said he had been “deliberately mistranslated” by the South African press so as to sell their newspapers. He, however, had not told the world anything different from what the media are reporting.

South Africans have zero tolerance for their African brothers and sisters. Their leaders seemed to have brainwashed the citizens that all their economic woes should be blamed On foreigners, especially the ones that run businesses. Or how do you explain the looting of foreign-owned businesses? Any failure of their country is blamed on foreigners.

While the South African economy may not be growing enough to accommodate the number of citizens who had been marginalised as a result of the apartheid regime in past years, they felt foreigners in the country should be blamed for this. It is unfortunate that these types of sentiments are encouraged by leaders in the country.

The ill-informed King Zwelithini and his army of xenophobes should realise that these acts and behaviours have no place in modern-day society. They should cover their faces in shame as they tag their country as a place where visitors are not usually tolerated. And what a way to advertise the country as a “choice” destination for foreign investors.

As I mused over these unfortunate incidents in the country, my mind flashed back to the apartheid days of South Africa. I remembered how the world, especially, the African countries, rose up to demand self-rule for them. Not only did they demand self-rule for South Africa, but they also supported the nationalists with a roof over their heads, money, arms and ammunition to fight the colonialists.

Is this a fallout of the failure of the African National Congress-led government? Will this latest “craze” call for re-appraisal of ANC? Can the citizens look inward and maybe consider a change in their political system? Will it be out-of-place to say ANC has probably outlived its “good”?

Published in the Diaspora Matters column, Sunday Vanguard April 19, 2015 

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