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Xenophobia: Is that what Africa is?

What a sad coincidence! What an unfortunate sequence of events! What a painful experience for any caring soul! Indeed, as philosopher Elder Pliny observed centuries ago: “Ex Africa semper aliquid novi”—out of Africa there is always something new.

Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, is still live with memories of a 21-gun salute to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, drum throbs of the African beat cultural troupe dances, sirens of presidential motorcades, a one-week trade and industrial exhibition showcasing what integrating 16-member states of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) have on offer, an imposing one-day curtain raiser Africa Forum.

This is all surrounding a three-day 39th SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government taking place at the symbolic southern Africa liberation struggle headquarters on the Indian Ocean western rim in East Africa.  Equally symbolic is that it is being held at the iconic Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre. Nyerere sacrificed his country and people for the political liberation of southern Africa, after which the participating frontline states rebranded into SADC to address issues of the economy.  

The strategic Summit theme is: “A Conducive Environment of Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development, Increased Intra-Regional Trade and Job Creation”, taking forward the SADC industrialization agenda.

The Heads of State and Government are highly flanked. In attendance are SADC Executive Secretary, Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax; President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Dr. Vera Songwe. This alone is enough to better elucidate the occasion.

Dust has yet to settle under the feet of the 39-point Summit communiqué including an appreciation “to the Government and people of Tanzania for successfully hosting the Ordinary Summit and the hospitality they provided to the delegates…”  

And then what happens? It is something very unordinary for the “Ordinary Summit”. It is sad news. Reports from South Africa reveal xenophobic attacks on foreigners – including Nigerians. This is a very sad case of ingratitude.  Nigeria is thousands of kilometres away from South Africa. However bad one may be at Geography, the country cannot be located on a frontline countries’ map. Yet, Nigeria took the trouble of playing an active role in the affairs of the frontline states. Today, its nationals are targeted by the sons of the very people whose freedom they fought for.

It’s sad news again. Why? This is taking place when the 50th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Africa Region Conference is taking place in Zanzibar – the isles part of the United Republic of Tanzania.  A morning session is delayed for about two hours during which delegates condemn violence and looting in South Africa.

Zambia branch vice-president equates it to genocide. “What we’re seeing is not good. It’s not interesting and it is not conducive.”

 Malawi delegate says violence against fellow Africans by South Africans degrades the CPA African region’s quest for deeper trade, integration and cooperation. “The message we are sending to South Africans is that we are Africans first before we become the nationalities we have.” He warns of sparking similar attacks elsewhere.  

Host Zanzibar branch chairman reminds South Africans of sacrifices made by other African countries for their country’s liberation. He suggests that should be taken up by Pretoria’s school curriculum developers.  

The message from Kenya is that what has taken place in South Africa is simply a criminal act that does not warrant any diplomacy treatment. “There is no African foreigner anywhere in Africa. This should not be allowed to take root… This is how radical groups are formed. Today they may be targeting people they perceive are not South Africans.” After this “they will turn to internal fights, murders and wars …”

The Malawi delegate warning of comes true. Enraged students of higher institutions of learning in Lagos, Nigeria, take to the streets targeting South African investments. Nigerian Parliament Speaker leaves Zanzibar and flies back home to address MPs on the sensitivity of the matter.

Nigeria President Mahammadu Buhari promises to talk it over with his South African counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa. But an African saying that the ear which will die does not respond to medicine evolves. Instead, South Africa severs diplomatic ties with Nigeria. What reason does it give? It is due to reprisal attacks arising from xenophobic violence in Pretoria and Johannesburg. Normally, it should have been the other way round. The sequence does not sound right. Consequence and subsequence are not synonyms.  

Lagos gets the sequence right. Consequent to Pretoria’s decision, it recalls its High Commissioner to South Africa. And subsequent to this, it withdraws from the World Economic Forum (WEF) scheduled to take place in Cape Town to address Intra-Africa trade. Rwanda, DR Congo and Malawi follow suit.  

Tanzania jumps off the wagon in a slightly different way. An earlier statement from the Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) Chief Executive, Ladislaus Matindi, that the national flag carrier would continue plying the Johannesburg route after its impounded aircraft was released by the court notwithstanding, Works, Transport and Communication Minister, Eng. Isack Kamwelwe, says the flights would be suspended pending written assurance from Pretoria on passenger safety.

With Africa’s two leading economies at logger heads, participants pulling out of the World Economic Forum scheduled to address the continent’s economic integration, the seat of new SADC Chairman President John Pombe Magufuli does not become something to envy.

Very disgusting words of former apartheid South Africa President Pieter Willem Botha thirty-one years ago come to light. Botha told the world that “black people cannot rule themselves because they don’t have the brain and mental capacity to govern a society.”

He charged: “They hate themselves. Give them guns; they would kill themselves. Give them power; they will steal all government money. Give them independence; they will use it to promote tribalism, ethnicity, bigotry, hatred, killings and wars…”

Africa must fight against extremism in any of its forms. During the colonial days, the continent had an organization of African unity. During the age of young independencies, there was an organization for African unity. Five decades down the self-governing lane we have a consolidation task under the African Union.

The African Union, a set of 55 countries, is supposed to be more focused. Integration is the catchword for which a framework already exists. It lies in the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA); the Common Market for Eastern, Central and Southern Africa (COMESA); Community of Sahel-Saharan States (SEN-SAD), East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS); Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS), Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

Africa must prove the likes of Pieter Willem Botha and Donald Trump wrong. Given political will, peace and delivering policies, the eight-bloc regional economic network is enough to open borders of African countries for the continent’s development in respect of which the sky is the limit. It can be done.

Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment.

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Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.

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