In response to the xenophobic attacks that keep popping up around the country, we publish here a series of articles written by young people, both South African and foreign nationals, sharing their thoughts, impressions and reactions to these events.

By Francis Konde

Although less is known by South African citizens about how African countries contributed in various ways in the fight against apartheid, African foreign nationals will never forget how their countries assisted the anti-apartheid movement of South Africa during the apartheid era.

Nigeria, like other African states that supported South African anti-apartheid movements during apartheid, had particularly done a huge contribution in the fight against the apartheid regime.  

– In 1960 the Nigerian government set up the National Committee Against Apartheid (NACAP). The government also managed to provide about $5 million to the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) annually and later on founded the Southern Africa Relief Fund (SAFR) in 1976 for the purpose of bringing relief materials to the victims of the apartheid.

– All Nigeria’s civil servants and public officers made a 2% donation from their monthly salary to the SAFR.The donations to the SAFR were widely known in Nigeria as the “Mandela tax.”

-It is also important to note that the Nigerian government, and many other African countries,issued more than 300 passports to South Africans seeking to travel abroad

-Nigeria boycotted the 1976 Olympics and Commonwealth games in 1979 as part of the protest against apartheid in South Africa.

“The African continent is yet to forgive South Africa for the xenophobic attacks on African migrants and, more than six weeks later, many Africans are sceptical about trusting the country,” Qaanitah Hunter from Mail and Guardian said in the report of 12 June 2015 during the second xenophobic attack in 2015. 

During the second xenophobic attacks, foreign nationals hoped something would be done to put an end to these attacks, yet 2019 was hit with other xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals starting in Kwazulu Natal and spreading to the other parts of the country. 

“The Afrophobia that played out in South Africa crushed the dream of pan-Africanism,” the director of the African Futures Institute, Alioune Sall, said during the 14th general assembly of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa in 2015.

While the South African government has been arguing that South Africans are not xenophobic, and that these attacks are simply acts of criminals, most foreign nationals hope that the South African government will try to bring improvements and an effective approach to tackle this on-going issue. 

“The scourge of violence and xenophobic attacks like the recent ones have brought us to the conclusion that these attacks have significantly increased in South Africa and will continue if nothing is done,”Abdirizak Ali Osman, secretary general of the Somali Community Board of South Africa said.

The series of xenophobic attacks on African foreign nationals has slowly started shuttering the idea of South Africa being a Pan-African country. In so many ways the attacks had been seen as a form of Afrophobia rather, simply because the attacks have been targeted on African foreign nationals only. 

Adam Habib, the vice-chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, who also attended a gathering of the continent’s top thinkers in the social sciences and politics in Dakar in 2015, said, “in a lot of ways, it is easier coming to South Africa from Germany than it is from the rest of Africa.”

“We talk the rhetoric of partnership, and of a common market and pan-Africanism, and then we have a visa regime that completely undermines that,” Habib added.

“A more common response from the continent is that South Africans are ungrateful after Africa housed them during the struggle against apartheid,” he said. There is also a feeling that xenophobia is a result of an absence of social justice in the country.  

Habib had also commented that, “It is worth bearing in mind that the relationship of South Africa with the continent is not as strong as it was in the former president Thabo Mbeki years. In the Mbeki years, our integration in the continent was defined by the Nigeria-South Africa pact that underwrote the African Union, Nepad  (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) and other things. There was a lot of energy put by the South African political elite into the African continent.”