South Africans are not Xenophobic

A man replaces a broken window at a tavern in Philippi township, on the outskirts of Cape Town, next to a banner that reads: No Xenophobia, No Afrophobia, Africans 4 Africans. The president has postponed a key ceremony after the deaths of seven people in recent attacks. Schalk van Zuydam AP African News Agency (ANA)

The term xenophobia itself is problematic when trying to explain and express how South Africans conduct themselves when reacting and responding to circumstances they face on a day to day basic. In simple terms, xenophobia is a fear or hatred of foreigners, to substantiate my stance on the use of this term in African or South African sense, how can an African national be a foreigner in African soil? 

I cannot be a foreigner in any African country thus the term xenophobic must be erased when alluding to the discomfort and experiences that  Africans are facing. It is therefore completely wrong to say that South Africans are xenophobic. By nature South Africans embrace the values of ubuntu such as treating our neighbours and guests with hospitality, respect, dignity and share whatever recourses available for human upliftment and wellbeing.

We cannot as government turn a blind eye on the current situation in SA. In any society when there is an intense competition for resources, employment and any other economic development opportunities in society ,fight, friction and tussling about these issues are inevitable.

Africans cannot be foreigners on African soil. The South African government must take full responsibility on what is happening in SA, failure of our government to create conducive environment for employment, alleviate poverty, reduce crime, provide quality healthcare and education for all its citizens triggered this nemesis.

We have welcomed our fellow brothers and sisters into our homes and communities ,we are sharing spaces of recreation together as Africans ,it is devoid of truth to say that South Africans are xenophobic, I want to appeal to the SA media to desist from using the term as it is divisive amongst Africans, let international media use the term when reporting about economic challenges that we are facing as a country ,I am certain that in South Africa today you cannot find even one refugee camp as we are witnessing in Western countries. We are all Africans, Thabo Mbeki’s speech “I am an African “ must resonate with every African in the African soil and those in diaspora. The term Afrophobia cannot be an African crafted term, therefore we reject the use of these terms in Africa. 

Most if not all African countries were colonised, let us not provide justification for colonisation in Africa, if we kill each other as Africans we inadvertently giving the coloniser every right to smile beyond the grave. Aristotle in his book “man is a rational animal” did not intend to include Africans as rational beings, let us refute those racial connotation by telling the world through symbolic telling that Africans are indeed rational, not xenophobic or Afrophobic.

Lucien Lévy-Bruhl claims that Africans can be characterised as savage,pre-logical, perceptual, oral and religious beings. Lévy-Bruhl contrasts these ideas with the perception of the European people as civilised, logical, conceptual, textual and scientific people. As Africans we need to be together and fight such negative thoughts by Western writers, let’s vehemently disagree that as Africans we are barbaric and uncivilised as we are projected to be.  

Based on the inter-connectedness amongst the African cultures ,values ,culture, customs, heritage, creed and languages that we share as African, xenophobia cannot and will not exist in African setting. Let me reiterate that who ever came with the term meant to divide us as Africans.

South Africans are not xenophobic, the SA government must take the blame for letting its citizens be labelled as xenophobic on the world stage. The fact that we have been labelled Xenophobic means that we will have to answer questions like, “how bad is xenophobia in Africa/South Africa?”  when visiting other countries. If I am going to be asked this question, my response will simply be, “I don’t know where that word comes from, South Africans are not xenophobic”. 

South Africans are not xenophobic, we value humanity, humanity is the fundamental basis of who we are as Africans,umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.        


Sandile Bontsa is currently an LLB student at UNISA. He was a former teacher and worked for the City of Cape Town.