On the 6th of November 2009, BBC online carried a story of a pregnant Somali woman who had been temporarily spared death by stoning until she gave birth. The woman’s boyfriend, Abas Hussein Abdirahman, who had been found guilty of adultery ‘was killed in front of a crowd of some 300 people in the town of Merka.’ A leader of the executioners said the woman would be killed after she had given birth. Later, on the 18th of November 2009, another woman who had been found guilty of the same crime (adultery) was also stoned to death after giving birth. The woman was taken to public grounds where she was buried up to her waist and stoned.
When I read these chilling stories, I could not imagine what these two poor women went through, knowing that after giving birth, they would be stoned to death. Honestly, how does it feel, for a mother to know that they will be stoned to death as soon as they give birth? One would imagine that they probably wish they remained pregnant forever so that they would not face the gruesome killing that awaited them. This is one odd instance where a mother wishes she never had to give birth because of what awaits her after. They could not hide and were not allowed to leave their villages. Their fate was sealed. Death for them was as certain as the rise of the sun.
What these women went through before they were stoned to death is probably what some non-South African brothers and sisters are going through. After the World Cup in South Africa, Xenophobic attacks are a sure thing. Despite the signs being there everywhere, the authorities and a few naive people deny this. There is a genuine and sure hatred of foreigners in South Africa for various reasons (PS By the way, white non-South Africans are tourists while black non-South Africans are foreigners).
The dawn of a post-apartheid era in 1994 excited heightened expectations among the black populace in South Africa. Many people believed that their dreams for a better life would be realized. The ANC government promised ‘a better life for all.’ Those without homes would have homes built for them, the unemployed would become employed, those without land would receive land, the ill-treated would receive justice for their ill-treatment. It was an era that was saturated with promises for an improved living. However, as time wore on, the situation has in fact deteriorated for many. Life is now even harder. Many people have become even poorer and the many promises for a better life have availed to little if anything at all. What has compounded the situation is that the thousands of foreigners in the country seem to be living on cloud nine. They are either employed or are self employed. Either way, they seem to have a decent income. Their lives seem so much better that that of the ordinary black South Africans. They own businesses, drive better cars, some have better jobs and seem to be generally having it easier than South Africans (not knowing that foreigners have to sweat for these things). Without a doubt, this has excited the feeling that they are depriving South Africans of opportunities that otherwise would have belonged to South Africans. As such, driving them away seems a justified way of opening up opportunities for the indigenous populace.
Some of the foreigners have been palpably guilty of wrongs - areas that had less crime before the advent of foreigners are now ‘no go areas’ because of the prevalence of criminal activity. Stories abound of how Nigerians run drug dens in Johannesburg, Cape Town and other towns. There have been reports of how Zimbabweans are guilty of violent crimes in areas such as Hilbrow, Thembisa and Yeuoville. In other towns, foreigners have been accused of selling counterfeit products, fake money, masterminding frauds, human trafficking and other criminal activities. Marginalized South Africans are agitated.
Yesterday (09.03.2010), a traffic police officer bellowed at me, “Niyasisokolisa apha nina bantu baseAfrica! Buyelani kokwenu!!” (You are giving us problems you people from Africa! Go back to your countries!!). This happened after I showed him my foreign drivers’ licence during a routine traffic roadblock. One time, I was in a taxi from Rondebosch to town where the driver was a Somali man. Two passengers in the taxi were conversing in Xhosa – “Aba bantu asibafuni apha. Basithathela imisebenzi.” (We do not want these people here. They are taking our jobs away).
On the 8th of February this year, xenophobic attacks flared up in Siyathemba township in Balfour. Foreigners were attacked and had their property burnt. About 30 foreign nationals had to seek refuge at Balfour police station. In the Western Cape township of Dunoon, locals have already promised foreigners ‘blood and thunder’ after the World Cup. The situation is the same in other townships across the country. We foreigners know what awaits us after June/July 2010. How does one live with the knowledge of these impending attacks? A lot of us come from countries facing severe challenges of governance which have made life there impossible. In Nigeria for example, hundreds of people were literally massacred last week in clashes between Christians and Muslims. Everyone is aware of what is happening in countries such as Sudan, Eastern DRC, parts of Angola, Somalia, Zimbabwe, parts of Uganda and Rwanda and in honesty, where can these people seek refuge? The same fate awaits us in South Africa after the World Cup and what can one say except, [T]here is no abiding place for some of us on this earth. In America and Europe, they despise us for working with Al Qaeda. In Africa, we are accused of taking away opportunities for local nationals. In some of our countries, we are burnt alive, locked up in prisons without food, water or sanitation, mutilated and have our mothers and sisters raped for not supporting so and so. Where can we go?
Only the authorities and a few naive people deny that xenophobia is a reality in South Africa after the world cup. We foreigners are well aware of what awaits us after the world cup. We wonder, those of us who survived last time, will we survive this time around? If we had somewhere to run, we surely would but unfortunately, we have no abiding place on this earth :-(