Conscience of a Centrist: We have become tolerant of Afrophobia

Johannesburg – “We all have to remember that hate crimes are preceded by hate speech.” This is how Adama Dieng, UN’s erstwhile special adviser on the prevention of genocide, starts the Stopping Hate Speech video.

“We have to bear in mind that words kill. Words kill as bullets,” he continued.

News that the SABC had discarded hundreds of workers in its restructuring process correctly drew widespread condemnation and sympathy for those affected.

But on social media, which more and more reflects a society we are becoming, the retrenchments took a sudden, jarring turn.

The hashtag “RetrenchPeterNdoro” quickly trended – and not without reason.

It was another opportunity for some foolish South Africans to display their pseudo “exceptionalism” at the expense of a fellow black brother.

This is in a country in which some of the CEOs on the listed companies are from Europe. We have become tolerant of Afrophobia – an intolerance towards other black Africans.

This manifests itself in many ways – both brutal and subtle. Afrophobia, which reflects self-hate, finds expression in the menace implied by the whisper of amakwerekwere – a pejorative label reserved specifically for African foreign nationals.

South Africa’s exceptionalism comes at a time when the continent (yes, South Africa is in Africa) is finally heeding the call of its founding fathers such as Kwame Nkrumah to unite. The African Continental Free Trade Area is the epitome of these elusive unity project.

History tells us that economic integration in Africa has long been hobbled by compromises to bolster the interests of neo-colonial leaders.

This is because we hate what we see when we look at our fellow Africans, but worship the ground those from the west walk on.

Currently, Africa lags behind other regions of the world in terms of continental trade. According to the African Development Bank, intra-Africa exports amount to only 16.6% of total trade. Imagine what proudly South African brands such as Bathu and Drip would be if the rest of the mother continent embraced them and made it their own. That is the possibility of a united Africa at peace with itself holds. South Africa, as one of the major economies, should wake up and realise its destiny with the rest of the continent is intertwined.

I trust Ndoro has big shoulders to ward off the insults and attacks on his person – he has seen this tragic movie before.

One can only hope his family takes comfort in the many South Africans of good conscience and requisite intelligence who stood by a fellow South African and African.

Black South Africa, if you want to know who is responsible for Afrophobia and xenophobia, look in the mirror.

And if you feel like I am talking to you and take offence, chances are you are right. Deal with it and sober up to the real challenges facing the black youth in the republic.

Jokes at fellow Africans’ expense are not worth the chuckle. All blacks matter, regardless of which part of the world one was begotten.

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