SOUTH AFRICA, Race Attacks and Underlying Tensions Remain
By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent – SEOUL TIMES – SOUTH KOREA
|Handshakes for the new South Africa.|
The old South Africa was blighted by racial politics and the African National Congress was meant to usher in a “new dawn,” whereby society would be based on equality. However, events in the middle of this year clearly showed that a “new dawn” had not arrived. Instead you had mass hatred of different African foreign nationals and many people were killed or forced to flee. Of course if these deaths had been done by the Boers, then the world would have said that it was predictable. However, this is black South African nationalism, therefore, the world appears to be indifferent and the response was rather tame. So what went wrong in the new South Africa?
Firstly, these inter ethnic disputes are not unique to South Africa because we have seen similar events throughout Africa and other parts of the world. For example you have major ethnic tensions in Algeria, Burundi, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, and other nations in Africa. Meanwhile, Europe also remains blighted by ethnic tensions in the Balkans, the Caucasus region, and racial tensions remain in many nations despite positive policies.
However, the new South Africa was meant to be “colour blind” but clearly it isn`t when it comes to ethnicity, is it? Therefore, mass immigration from nations like Zimbabwe have upset the applecart too much and ethnic disputes are clearly potent. So why did the South African government get it wrong? Or were they too naive to notice the changing face of society?
Maybe the current leaders of South Africa are more focused on power politics rather than bread and butter issues? But these past killings are based on bread and butter issues and many South Africans are fed up with the current economic situation. Therefore, grinding poverty, inequality, a breakdown in certain sectors, alongside mass immigration, is a very potent mix and sadly it proved to be too potent.
Given this, the rainbow country, like it was dubbed, is not so much a rainbow but more like a patchwork of different ethnic groups and these ethnic groups do not pander to easy sayings based on so-called unity. Instead, the majority of South Africans want to share the apple pie, however, the apple pie is being cut open by small elites. Therefore, social tensions are based on isolation, poverty, and growing discontent within the political system.
Ex-President, Thabo Mbeki, called recent attacks “a disgrace” but the real disgrace is the failure of his own political party. He, and other members of the ruling party, allowed mass immigration while doing little about crime, poverty, inequality, and offering hope. So while these attacks may be “a disgrace” this should not cloud the real reasons behind these past massacres. Also, even today many immigrants reside in refugee camps and they are too scared to mix openly in parts of South Africa.
Therefore, recent events are a clear reminder that ethnic politics must not be ignored and “the rainbow nation” is nothing more than a society based on inequality. Until the leaders of South Africa admit this, then little will change. Also, once ethnic hatred turns into major bloodshed then it is hard to contain forces which have been unleashed. Yes, these troubles may lie dormant for a while, however, it is difficult to turn the clock back, and this is the problem. So how will the new leaders respond to their own failure and to the plight of immigrants who reside in fear?
Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA