Africa - What's Going On?
AFRICA: "What's Going On?" March 2017
Henry Huffard Sr. Producer, Africa

Xenophobia

Headlines from African news sources can easily be turned into programs for World Christian Broadcasting’s Africa Service. Xenophobia, fear of strangers, is such a topic.

In Tanzania, foreign workers have recently been given one month to prove they have the necessary papers to be employed. Twenty-five Indian employees were recently detained after the government found they did not have proper visas to work. The current President promised to make new jobs a priority for the many youths entering the market. Much of this is to be accomplished by expelling illegal foreign workers and giving their jobs to “qualified” locals. But a startling discovery was made. “The majority of foreigners who dominate the job market at the expense of our qualified youths have even acquired Tanzanian birth certificates. How they got them no one knows,” Labour, Employment and Youth Minister Jumanne Maghembe said. (East African, Feb 21, 2017; Panapress, Feb 27, 2017)

[XenoPhoto. Caption: (Premium Times)]

While that last story may not qualify as xenophobia, it leads us to our next one, which most observers would say is properly described by the term. It is reported that more than 100 Nigerians have been killed in South Africa over the last two years by local groups who want to kick all foreigners out. South Africa’s President Zuma denies that South Africa is a xenophobic country and insists that human rights of all people are respected. But he then resorted to put a spin on the story by saying, “We cannot close our eyes to the concerns of the communities that most of the crimes, such as drug dealing, prostitution and human trafficking are allegedly perpetuated by foreign nationals.” (News24WIRE, Feb 24, 2017)

The fact is, attacks are not confined to aliens involved in crime. Foreign-owned shops were vandalized and looted during a recent demonstration in Pretoria. Rubber bullets had to be used by police to disperse the crowd, and 136 people were arrested. President Zuma said the Pretoria protest march was anti-crime, not anti-immigrant. Hmmm.

A Nigerian civil rights organizations sees an unacceptable pattern in South Africa’s treatment of foreigners. They are presently urging King Mswati III of Swaziland, who is Chairman of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), to “convene an emergency summit of the SADC heads of state and government to discuss the persistent xenophobic attacks on Nigerian and other foreign nationals living in South Africa.” The open letter spoke of the perpetrators having impunity and the victims receiving no remedy or reparations. According to the organization, sanctions against South Africa by the other SADC countries should be considered. (Premium Times, Feb 26, 2017)

[MTN-Nigeria. Caption: Ransacked MTN headquarters in Nigeria (Premium Times)]

In Nigeria, less diplomatic actions were taken. The headquarters of MTN, the giant South African telecommunications company, was ransacked by a national youth organization. Expensive equipment was stolen (phones, iPads). Leaders of the group were not afraid to own up to their actions. One of them even suggested that Boko Haram, rather than killing fellow Nigerians, should change its focus and fight with them against the common enemy, South Africa. (CAJ News, Feb 26, 2017)

One Kenyan reporter calls Nigeria taking revenge against South African companies a “deadly path.” He points to the work Nigeria has done to attract investments from abroad. Then he throws in a reasoned explanation of what is going on: “The xenophobia in South Africa is not so different from the tribalism that is much closer home especially in Kenya where the political games rely on it to keep people in a perpetual fear of invisible enemies from who(m) they need protection. And this protection is to be expected from top politicians who double as tribal kingpins. With the election date drawing closer by the day, the language used at the political rallies ought not to be that incites people.” (Allan Brian Ssenyonga, The New Times, Feb 26, 2017)

[Photo of Illegal Ethiopians. Caption: Detained Ethiopian illegal immigrants in Tanzania (The Citizen)]

The Bible has much to say about living within the law, obeying the civil government, loving our neighbors as defined in the parable of the Good Samaritan, treatment of strangers in our midst, not taking revenge, love casting out fear, etc. I think I have all I need to start a new series. [Perhaps this series has a broader application than Africa?] Please continue to pray for our daily radio broadcasts to Africa. We hope to celebrate our first anniversary of programs to Africa this month.

 

Andy Baker, Vice President - Development      World Christian Broadcasting
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