By Mondli Makhanya
Tomorrow was going to be the beginning of a bleak period for humanity. It is the beginning of the Fifa international break, that time of year when leagues come to a standstill and footballers go off to play mostly meaningless games for their countries.
During these breaks, football lovers – who constitute the bulk of enlightened humanity – can be found staring into nothingness and wondering what the purpose of life is.
In this international break, some of the notable games include a meet-up between Montenegro and Armenia, Luxembourg and Northern Ireland, Slovenia and Qatar, and between San Marino and Lithuania. And there will be back-to-back clashes between Bangladesh and Indonesia.
We South Africans are even better off than most, thanks to our turbocharged news cycle. For better or for worse, this country is permanently on steroids. The start of 2022 has been no different. In the first few weeks of the year, if we were not burning our Parliament or sabotaging our economy in various ways, we were ramping up anti-foreigner sentiment.
And then we had a minister who, after 28 years of fattening herself and living a privileged life because of her constitutionally ordained positions, has now decided that the Constitution is a dirty trick played by evil colonialists.
But let’s stick to the worsening anti-foreigner sentiment, as it is something that is set to dominate the national conversation this year and may even lead to another conflagration.
President Cyril Ramaphosa this week said South Africans were not xenophobic, and pointed to many ways in which this country has welcomed and accommodated foreign nationals.
“South Africans are not xenophobic. South Africans are embracing and we have been like that from time immemorial. Of course, like in any other country, there will be actions like this at certain moments,” he said.
He was right. South Africans are not xenophobic. In fact, this is one of the most cosmopolitan countries in Africa, being home to people from virtually every country on the continent.We may engage in occasional barbaric attacks on non-nationals, but these have been shown to be caused by competition for resources on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.
They are also the result of a chaotic immigration system, nonexistent border controls, and failure to enforce basic national and municipal laws. This issue is one of many that have exposed the fact that we are a rudderless nation.
This has created a toxic environment that charlatans and opportunists exploit.
Hence the past week’s antics by these said charlatans and opportunists, who are hell-bent on exploiting the suffering of the marginalised by instilling in them the hatred of foreign nationals.
Top of the list was the EFF, led by the legendary chameleon from Seshego.
After previously preaching that there is no African foreigner in Africa, Julius Malema and his underlings this week hopped from restaurant to restaurant, demanding to know the staff ratio of foreigners to locals.
Fully aware that nobody would want to fall victim to the renowned hooliganism of the EFF, he made not-so-subtle threats to the owners of the establishments.
He claimed he was there doing parliamentary oversight work, despite it being obvious that he was merely jumping on the populist foreign national-bashing bandwagon following the November election results, which showed the party’s growth was stalling.
Then there was the Patriotic Alliance (PA) running around doing inspections of food items at foreign national-owned businesses. Once they found expired items, they destroyed them.
They also went to government offices seeking foreign nationals as a way to expose their employers. To its credit, the PA has not been shy to voice its anti-immigrant stance right from the onset, and it has worked for the party.
In Soweto, residents joined the Operation Dudula campaign headed by local vigilante Nhlanhla Lux to remove foreign national traders from their spots.
They assaulted traders, demanded to see their identity documents and even trashed goods belonging to South Africans.We can condemn all these charlatans who have taken the law into their own hands for their own selfish purposes, but the loudest condemnation must be reserved for those who have left the vacuum for them to move into.
If the government of the land was doing half its job, there would be no place for thugs to go around pretending to be the enforcers of the law.
Jacob Zuma was criminally prone, had an out-of-control appetite for flesh and was an unmitigated disaster when it came to governance.
He set in motion this free-for-all culture in which there is no respect for authority and in which government does not do what it is supposed to do. However, in his case, he wanted himself and his mates to be free to plunder.
The current guy is just missing in action and the mice and rats are free to run amok.
Rudderless we are. And because of this, the anti-foreigner mobilisation is going to gain momentum and we cannot rule out the possibility of some really ugly scenes during the course of this year.
—Mondli Makhanya is Editor in Chief of City Press