Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|April 4, 2022|4 Minutes|In Editor's Desk

Editor’s Desk

Wake up or the beast will eat us all

A horrible, hairy, ugly, beast with small teeth red with blood, mean eyes and a snub nose has crawled out of the undergrowth in South Africa, yet again  an evil that will surely strike fear into the heart of many a hard-working entrepreneur.

The beast is called xenophobia – its henchmen are bigotry and vigilantism. An unholy trinity that makes me sick to my guts. I am speaking metaphorically about the worrying news emanating from South Africa this week about the so called Dudula Movement – in Zulu, the words mean  ‘push back’ – that now screams the kind of anti-foreigner rhetoric that once people only whispered on street corners.

The Dudula Movement says all it trying to do is curb the number of undocumented foreigners in South Africa – of which, frankly, there are millions. For the record, the movement blames people from Mozambique for car thefts in South Africa, Zimbabweans for cable theft and people from Somalia for bringing in fake goods.

A sweeping statement, if ever there was one. So many nationals – many of them entrepreneurs – from across Africa have brought their hard work and skills to South Africa. Many took jobs below their skills and worked their way up – paying tax as they went. From Ghana to Kenya to Malawi they brought their perspective and culture with them. Sure, some turned to crime, that is a symptom of a bigger problem little to do with immigration.

In happier days, there was even a TV documentary made in South Africa called: “We came to see Mandela” celebrating the post-apartheid influx of people from across Africa bringing with them their culture and skills. Now the economy is struggling, times are getting tougher and the tide has turned. When people’s pockets and stomachs are empty, they get scared and they turn on those they believe are weaker and to blame.

The reason why I fear for entrepreneurs, the most, is that many people who come from across Africa to live in South Africa set up small businesses. They have few contacts and no family, nor capital, to lean on; they are outsiders who have to work harder than everyone else to earn a crust.

People I worked with, who lived in Soweto in Johannesburg, used to complain that Somalis owned all the corner shops on the one hand – on the other, praised them for staying open longer selling cheaper goods. In the current climate, I fear for them. People have to realise that getting “them” whomever “them” maybe in your eyes, is not going to solve anything or make anyone rich.

The same goes for vigilantism. You start off with good intentions of punishing wrongdoers. The only problem it always seems to put arbitrary power in the hands of sadists who end up persecuting people they simply don’t like. For a nation born out of a zest for freedom and a desire for fairness, it would be sad if South Africa became notorious across the continent for such bigoted thuggery. I hope my fellow countrymen and women wake up before it is too late.