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When The Oppressed Become The Oppressors

July 13th, 2010

“Set me free so that I may do to others what you did to me.”

With South Africa celebrating the successful hosting of the World Cup below the surface of the celebrations lurks an ugly and scary scenario. Scary for the some 120 or so foreign workers from neighbouring African countries taking refuge at police stations; so scary that many Zimbabweans immigrants fleeing the threatened xenophobic attacks are willing to take their chances squatting along the main Beitbridge highways to Harare and Bulawayo (Zimbabwe Nationals Left Stranded After Fleeing South Africa). Even the security forces have moved into townships in the Cape Town area to protect the migrant workers (Security Forces Move to Protect Migrants).

The xenophobic attacks in the townships are only added to the misery many of those migrants have faced to get to South Africa. Stories abound of robberies and rapes along the borders with little or no protection for the immigrants.

The xenophobic threats have been hidden under the shadow of the World Cup but many migrants already feared it from long before the first game was played. In the euphoria of the major event, South Africa’s large crime rate seems to have been controlled at least in the areas where the world’s eyes have been. However, this situation will highlight, just as the attacks did previously, the lack of control the security forces have of a population that previously used that weakness to undermine the Apartheid government.

In there lies the problem, everyone wants a piece of the golden pie and many of those who will attack foreign workers will fail to understand the part played by other African nations which with the internal pressures brought Apartheid to its end. The South African government will say the right things and admonish the perpetuators of the attacks but how many of these people trust the government to look after their interests?

This kind of xenophobic can only be tackled by education. It is that lack of education that allows many of the foreign workers to obtain the better paying jobs that fuel these unsavoury sentiments. However it is not likely that the educated immigrants will feel the backlash but the desperate ones living there in the townships, seen as undercutting the locals, in their desperation to stay alive and feed those who they left behind.

The whispers are going to turn to shouts and shots and fires but you cannot but help feeling that someone has a vested interest in either the removal of foreign workers (unlikely) or the chaotic situation that will prevail. What is obvious, to those looking in, are that the poor South African in the townships will gain nothing from it all.

How very sad.

[First published on my NotTheNews blog on specified date]