Monday, 26 May 2008


An Africa Day letter from the Convention Secretary’s desk.

This Africa Day, one wishes there was something to celebrate. Do not get me wrong, the National Youth Development Trust hails that historic generation of Africa’s first leaders that converged in Addis Abbaba to form the Organization of African Unity in 1963. We resonate with the ideals of African solidarity, of African nations assisting one another and building each other’s capacity to make a better life for the citizens of Africa. We cannot fail to acknowledge the dire need for social, economic, political and cultural co-operation among African states. We are in total support of Africa finding her place in the world and playing a more significant role in the broader global discourse. We resonate with the concept of the African Rennaisance and support noble initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). Simply put, the National Youth Development Trust believes in the African Dream.

Zimbabwe’s situation today really does not make the ordinary Zimbabwean feel proud to be African. I personally do not feel compelled to chant the traditional “Harambee” slogan of African solidarity. We have been abandoned. The world knows too well of the electoral crises and profound suffering we are going through. I am not one that expects international intervention to save us but I am very bitter about how our African brothers and sisters have handled our predicament. Even the least politically conscious Zimbabwean knows very well how the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has dragged its feet with regards to taking a tougher stance against the authors of our plight in Harare. One wonders whether or not the African Union (OAU’s successor) has a leeway to override SADC’s mandate and play a more serious role in alleviating our suffering.

This obtaining situation has raised a lot of questions about what African Solidarity really means. Does it mean that those who drove the liberation movement of Africa should stick together even where it is blatantly clear that one of them has ruined their land. Does it mean that a fellow brother cannot publicly admonish his or her compatriot. Of course we are cognisant of the delicate nature diplomatic mission with regard to foreign policy but we Zimbabweans have been too patient for too long. SADC’s mediation effort has done us more harm than good.

For us it never rains but pours incessantly. To add to our profound suffering, our Southern neighbours just woke up one morning and decided we are no longer welcome in their land. A spirited campaign of xenophobic violence has been visited on the millions of foreigners living as political and economic refugees in South Africa. When the violence broke out, I for one was convinced it was just a pocket of isolated hooligans in one or two settlements. But alas, the campaign gathered steam and rapidly spread across the country like a veld fire. It came to light that it is an organised and well orchestrated movement. So organised that residents meetings were held and it was agreed that foreigners are “taking our jobs and our wives”. The solution, therefore, is to drive out the filth.

What an insult. The statement, to begin with, is blatantlly sexist. People are failing to realise that most of the foreigners, especially Zimbabweans are enterprising women who are just commited to the cause of feeding their families. Our people are accused of accepting any salary for a job and, therefore prejudicing the locals. This is just a pointer to the crisis in Zimbabwe. Any amount, for the Zimbabwean, will make a difference between having a meal and doing without. Our people are industrious, intelligent and educated and it is only expected for them to perform competitively on the job market. West Africans, our fellow accused are known for their enteprise and business prowess and it is only expected of them to fare well.

Do not get me wrong, I am in total agreement with the assertion that the South African government has the primary objective of serving the interests of South Africans. Certainly, this is not an issue of foreigners stealing jobs, it is an issue of two communities of poor people frustrated with their circumstances. If there is someone that the residents of Thembisa, Alexandra and Diepsloot should be angry with, it is their government for failing to swiftly expand vital social services such as housing. South Africa, sometimes refered to as a second world country in the third world, is notorious for its wealth distribution discrepancies. The poor South Africans cannot understand their poverty in the middle of such fabulous wealth and decide to take it out on their poor brothers and sisters, who are also trying to eke out a living on the periphery of the economy.

Be that as it may, South Africa is a leading African nation and it is only normal that it should have the liberal immigration laws that it has. The blame here falls squarely on the South African government for failing to devise a working immigrant policy. The government policy documents are clear that South Africa is in dire need of external skilled labour and will remain so for the forseeable future. The booming economy needs to be sustained by skilled labour which, unfortunately, South Africa is not generating. There are some suggestions that politics is at play. Policy makers that have failed to deliver to the people are fuelling xenophobic tensions in a ploy to shift blame.

My concern, disregarding the technical and procedural dimensions mentioned above, is that Africans can still think in such a primitive way at such a time as this. Have they no sanctity for human life to murder poor brothers and sisters. One does not let emotion cloud their judgement and resort to shedding blood. Nelson Mandela, the world statesman, is on record for saying that Africa is for all Africans and no one nationality or ethnic group is superior to another. President Thabo Mbeki has espoused the same sentiments in his African Rennaisance dream all too often. The National Youth Development Trust is disturbed by these developments and calls for calm and tolerance. Politicians should do more than just going to crime scenes and condemning the violence for television. We want to see the murderers being brought to book and justice prevailing. Watching South African news, one gets the feeling that the law enforcement agents are not serious about ending the bloodlet as we clearly see the locals swearing and threatening to unleash more violence right there on television in the presence of the police.

The National Youth Development Trust notes with rage that unemployment has driven many young people to South Africa for economic survival and the latest developments makes their plight even worse. We believe that Zimbabweans have the obligation to solve their own problems but our brothers should not exonerate themselves from playing their part. We applaud the South African Personalities Against Xenophobia for the noble campaigns and demonstrations they have been having as a response to the crisis. Is South Africa still in good public stead to host the 2010 World Cup in light of the unfolding mess? Your guess is as good as mine.

We have so many problems bedevilling us as Africans that we need to work together to solve. Neccessity, more than anything else, dictates that we stick together. Sectorial interests must not divide us in our quest to achieve the African Dream. Mayibuye!

Yours truly

Mziwandile Ndlovu-Thwalimbiza, Convention Secretary.