By Kim Heller
I am a foreigner. A white settler in South Africa. I am not an African, for truly speaking, there is no such thing as a white African, as much as some like to make-believe that this is so. Like each and every other white South African, I am the original foreigner in South Africa.
But Operation Dudula does not target me, the original foreigner; the white settler, although we are largely responsible for the grave economic plight that most black South Africans are in today. For the black poverty of the day was largely manufactured by whites during apartheid and colonial days. That such patterns of black poverty remain in democratic South Africa, is a damning and shameful legacy for the ANC government.
White settlers are exempt from the ire of groups like Operation Dudula despite the fact that we greedily hold the lion’s share of land and economy, much of which was gained through the most brutal systemic subjugation of black South Africans.
Today white South Africans live well in a land that was never ours and we continue to enjoy the fruits of an economy tailored to white interests and which ensured and insured white flourish on the back of black economic deprivation and exclusion.
Today it is as if justice has yet to enter the borders of the Rainbow Nation for there has been no return, repair or restitution of the dignity, rights, property, and prosperity of black South Africans, which was either stolen or lost in the might of white supremacy.
White South Africans continue to enjoy a wonderland of opportunities, and ironically are summarily treated better by the democratically elected black government, than are black South Africans, and certainly better than black foreigners from the Continent.
This in a country where historically whites committed grand scale economic plunder and crimes of inhumanity against blacks; gruesome, vile, brutal acts for which white South Africans have yet to repent.
This in a country where the dignity and rights of black South Africans have been brutally affronted and attacked for centuries, by whites.
This in a country that found loving embrace and sanctuary in the outstretched and welcoming arms of African neighbouring states during the worst of times.
Julius Malema, leader of the EFF, speaking at a political rally earlier this year recalled the sacrifices of many Africans, including Nigerians and Zimbabweans, in the struggle for South Africa’s liberation: “Some lost their lives for us to be liberated.”
The noble promise of a better life for black South Africans is dying a slow and tortured death in democratic South Africa.
Podcast: Shifaan Ryklief/African News Agency (ANA)
Twenty-eight years of ANC governance has created an economic wasteland for black South Africans. Economic opportunities and prospects for black South Africans have been severely thwarted due to a failure by the government to root out apartheid-manufactured economic inequalities, and disproportionate wealth distribution and power relations.
Unemployment levels are dangerously high, placing the country’s prosperity and stability at a tipping point. Right now, for South Africa, economic recovery and growth is little more than a foreign concept. Chronically poor service delivery across all ambits of society is the real deal of the day for the majority of South Africans.
It is not surprising then that in this abyss of desolation and desperation that black South Africans feel that economic migrants from African are taking away scarce jobs and opportunities and overburdening the already pressed matrix of social services.
It is understandable that black South Africans feel that they are last in the long snaking queue of those waiting patiently for better prospects, or worse drowning, without any life support from their government, in the deep end of an engulfing wave of poverty.
It is reasonable for black South Africans to feel like second rate citizens in their own land once again.
But this painful predicament is hardly caused by economic migrants from the Continent.
While the untreated pandemic of joblessness and unemployment and oversubscription of social services in South Africa may well be exacerbated by the flood of economic migrants into South Africa from the Continent, unemployment and poor service delivery is not the work of migrants.
The blame must be placed squarely on an economic system held greedily in the grip of a white minority, an extractive and exploitive economic system of white capital that yields little to black South Africans. The blame must be placed at the flat foot of the ANC government which has failed to transform this very economic system which was precision designed to systemically exclude black South Africans.
It is the ANC government that has continued to give life support to white business interests, left the lion’s share of land in white hands, and extended the longevity of white domination in the procurement value chain of government and state-owned entities.
The lifeblood of black economic liberation has been given so little oxygen, that black South Africans have had to fight among themselves, and now African economic migrants for the meagre crumbs of economic subsistence.
Black South Africans deserve to be angry with their government.
Black South Africans have been second rate citizens in their own country since 1652 when the white man Jan van Riebeek and his party of VOC merry men arrived in what we today call Cape Point, to set up a refreshing station along the lucrative Asia to Africa sea route.
But in the end these uninvited and unwelcome guests were to gate crash the Cape and eventually the nation itself.
Before long, land and cattle theft become the colonial game of the day, and in no time black South Africans were dislodged from land, family and farming and forced into a pool of unskilled labour, at the service of white agriculture and mining.
Under the plunder of colonialism, South Africa was no longer a place of milk and honey.
Legislation was enacted to deny black South Africans rights, and strip them of citizenship, forcing millions into artificially created and desolate “homelands.” Under colonialism and apartheid, black South Africans were treated as less, as if they were children of a lesser god.
Not dissimilar to the way African slaves were regarded in America at one time: as a fifth of a person in the Constitution.
And for black South Africans there has been little reprieve in the Rainbow Nation. In the powerhouse of systemically and structurally engineered inequality, whites remain prosperous on the bent and broken spine of black poverty.
For most black South Africans each new dawn is an ache of growing and unrelenting joblessness, hunger, and hopelessness.
Black South Africans deserve to be placed first after centuries of being dislodged, subjugated, and prejudiced. The dignity, rights and wellbeing of the black South African child should be fore-fronted. But not on the scapegoating of African migrants but on the fundamental and deep transformation of an economic system that is not geared to give pride of place to black South Africans.
Organisations such as Operation Dudula are misdirecting anger and fueling ugly tensions between black South Africans and African foreigners. It is a dangerous operation for it fans and fires up discontent and misdirects it. It encourages ugly black on black battles in an art of distraction which takes the eye away from the real war for true economic liberation. It attacks and severs black unity at a time in history when it is needed more than ever before if Africa is ever to emerge as it should in the world economy.
In the words of Julius Malema, “Operation Dudula is nothing but an act of criminality to divide black people.”
That senior government officials and leaders are joining in this war-cry is yet another symptom of an idea -barren, ethically poor and accountability phobic governing party. It signals that the ANC 2024 election sloganeering will be that of scapegoating rather than solution seeking.
Even if each and every African migrant was sent back to his or her own country, it would not help bring or build an arc of prosperity for black South Africans. In truth economic migrants from Africa constitute a miniscule share of the overall working population.
Statistics South Africa estimates there are 3.9 million “foreign-born people living in South Africa. Statistics point too to the fact that even in Gauteng, the country’s main economic hub, this group constitutes just 4 percent of the population, and less than 10 percent of working population. This is contrary to the deliberate exaggeration of migrant numbers by opportunistic politicians.
The battles between black South Africans and their black brothers and sisters is symptomatic of an Africa that is in deep distress, and of African governments that have failed their people. For people to cross rivers and sometimes oceans for mere survival, is a death sentence that dysfunctional government place upon their citizens. In the main, foreign migrants are victims not villains.
Malema has called for unity of Africans.
Malema has implored black South Africans to “Stop the hate of black people, love each other, before you love each other, love yourself.”
For now, as black people turn on black people, whites are united and thriving, in the pursuit of their economic and cultural wellbeing and sustainable prosperity. In the end, Black discord and disunity serves white domination and supremacy. Such is the politics of white distraction and destruction. Such is the politics of a new brand of black politics, which pits black against black. One has to wonder, who is sponsoring such operations?