Recently, I said that if the world came together and teased each other, South Africa would probably be called the drama queen of the world.
Well, now it seems South Africa has become more than just that. We are now also the specialists in the killing of individuals from outside our country or foreign nationals (as they are called by some). This killing, ladies and gentleman, is what’s called Xenophobia and we are the experts at practising it.
This violence is now on each and every one of our news outlets. You can’t go a day without running into a poster that reads “SAY NO TO XENOPHOBIA” on a streetlight somewhere in Belville or maybe even in Cape Town.
Am I saying it’s a bad thing that so much attention is being given to this latest crisis in a country full of drama?
No, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. In fact, I wish these adverts would be in every corner of Philippi and all the other places that have a history of attacking foreign nationals. I wish an episode of Generations, Scandal and 7de Laan would be replaced by documentaries that remind us of how sick and disgusting this latest spate of violence and torture is.
I was watching the news this morning and I ended up listening to one of the leaders involved in trying to calm the situation down and find solutions. What she said is very important. According to her, even though people constantly talk about the reasons why these attacks could be happening, it all doesn’t matter. What matters, she says, is that attacking people, like some South Africans are doing at the moment, is never justified and should be absolutely condemned.
I agree. In fact, if I could use a couple of swear words to make my point, I would. That’s how hurt I am by what’s currently happening.
In 2008, when these attacks first happened, I was still pretty young (a seventeen-year-old kid to be more specific). I didn’t understand just how many things are wrong with these attacks. But now that I’m much older, I understand that whether you’re a lawyer representing the foreign nationals, a doctor treating their many wounds, a pastor at a local church, you’ll find something seriously wrong and inhumane with the attacks. And that, I think, tells us everything we need to know in order for us to join the fight against this Xenophobia. So I ask you, then, to join me. Speak out! Take part in a march! Post protest messages on Facebook. Do something!
I mean, think about it. Really think about everything. Ask yourself questions. Why wouldn’t you want to join the fight and help? Are these attacks really about one African attacking another African or are they more about one human taking another human’s life into their hands? Are these attacks not about someone’s uncle or aunt attacking someone else’s brother or sister?
Imagine, for example, if a young Nigerian kid lost his brother to the attacks. How would he feel? How would his friends feel? What if his South African friend wrote a poem for his dead brother? What would it sound like?
Well, let’s imagine, for a moment, that it’s this poem:
The things we say when people die.
The things we say when he lays there,
Striking a death pose.
I wish death smelled and looked like a rose.
I wish breath wasn’t absent;
That it hadn’t bunked his lungs.
I wish we weren’t landmines
Blowing up each time death steps on us.
I wish our bodies weren’t gravity
Pulling death towards us.
Why are we so weak?
Why were you so weak, bra?
I miss you, bra!
This family knows death too well.
It greets us like an early morning coffee smell.
It rings in our corridors like a school bell.
My brother died in 2015.
We told him “hamba kak’hle, Mqwathi.
Uzungavuli mehlo, ungaboni.
Uzungavuli mlomo, ungathethi.
You’re in the arms of death now.
It holds you in a box.
It holds your tongue and lips in the dark silence.
It holds your arms and legs down in the darkness.”
I wish I could write death an email,
My fingers alive with anger and detail.
Death you make me sick!
Death you make me want to dig deep
For all the hate I have for you.
You make me want to keep
A spade in my mother’s storage room for you.
Death I wish you and I could conduct an interview.
I’d hold the mic up to your mouth.
If you were a man I’d kick you so hard you’d cry the whole night
Because, then, you’d come during the day
And we’d see you coming and run.
Death you and I should never speak again
Because you make me want to swallow bullets from a gun.
#Chatback: So now that you’ve read the poem, how do you feel?
Are you as angry and disgusted as I am about how foreign nationals have been treated?
Tell me what you think. How can you join the fight?