My thoughts on Phobias and the genocide taking place in South Africa

xenophobia

Growing up in South Africa, I was always reminded by those around me that I was different to everyone else. In primary school, I had a much darker complexion than I do now, and super white teeth – the telling marks of a foreigner that betray you even when you put on your best English accent. It is just too obvious.

My name is Lovelyn Chidinma Nwadeyi. I am a Nigerian. Born in Nigeria to two Nigerian parents. Raised in Queenstown, Eastern Cape by those same Nigerian parents right up until I completed my Bachelors at Stellenbosch. I bear citizenship of both worlds. I speak fluent Xhosa, Igbo, Afrikaans and English. I can make sense of Tswana and Sotho. I enjoy a good braai, I love vetkoeks, especially the bunny-chow, I can’t get enough of Bokomo WeetBix, I love Ouma’s rusks and I can pull off my panstulas with any outfit on a lazy Saturday when I want to head to town. I am the first to break it down with the ngwaza and the dombolo at the sound of some decent house music or kwaito be it in Pick n Pay or at a party.

I can sokkie and I enjoy it (all be it with my two left feet), my darkest moments can be reversed by koeksusters and a cup of rooibos tea any day. I can jump between the high pitched and arguably annoying accents of some Constantia moms, the lank kif and apparently sophisticated English of my Hilton brothers and the heavy accents of my fellow Eastern Capers, I can attempt the fast paced, lyrical Afrikaans of my coloured brothers in the Cape and I can serve you the best butternut soup you have ever known. I am as South African as you need me to be.

But my ability to navigate all these spaces did not just happen. Learning to blend into all these spaces was a matter of survival for me. You see from the day I set foot in Queenstown and started primary school, it was always made very clear to me that I was an outsider. I only had white friends from my first few years in school, because the other black girls couldn’t understand why I was black but only spoke in English. They thought I thought I was better than them. So I spent most of my breaks humbly eating my peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich, surrounded by those who had Melrose cheese and Provita Crackers with Bovril and/or marmite sandwiches in their lunchboxes. The rest of the time I spent alone, save the few brave souls of similar complexion who tried to befriend me.

What nobody knew was that for the first three years of my life in SA, my little brother and I barely saw my dad up to twice a month. What was he doing absent from the home, other than selling pillowcases, duvets and bedsheets, from door to door on foot through the streets, villages and side roads of the old Transkei and Ciskei? My father would leave the house on Monday mornings after him and my mom got us ready for school, and he would be gone for days and weeks, selling the few pillowcases and bedsheets he had from door to door. On foot. We were never sure when he would return. But when he did, we were always more grateful for his safety and aliveness than anything else.

From Queenstown. To Cala, Umtata, Qumbu, Qoqodala, Whittlesea, Mount Fletcher, Kingwilliamstown, Mdantsane, Bhisho, Indwe, Butterworth, Aliwal North and even as far as Matatiele and Kokstad. There are so many other places he went to that I do not even know.

That is how my parents put us through school, until they saved up enough money to open their own little shop where they then started selling sewing machines, cotton and then community phones, then sweets and chips and take aways and then hair products and the list goes on and on. It was on this that I was able to go through primary school, high school, and university. My parents have no tertiary education, it was only until their late 40s that both of them decided to register for part-time studies at Walter Sisulu to get their Diplomas. Note: Diplomas.

It took them four years, because they were busy trying to keep their kids in school, and keep selling their sweets and sewing machines while attempting to dignify their efforts with a degree.

My story is not unique, it is the story of most foreigners in South Africa. Very few foreigners come into SA with skills that make them employable here. Unless you are a medical doctor, an academic and maybe an engineer or well established businessman before coming here, your chances of getting meaningful employment in SA are as limited as those of the United States letting Al-Qaeda members off the hook – almost impossible.

Most foreigners come to SA with the ability to braid hair, carve wood, or sell fruits, veges, clothes, fizz pops, carpets and soap before they can find their feet here. Some are graduates…but what can another African degree do for you in SA? And any foreigner in SA will tell you that that is the truth. All of us started from below the bottom. Doing work that carries no dignity, no respect and very little financial gain. But when you have left or lost everything that you know and love and end up in a foreign land as unwelcoming in its laws and restrictions as South Africa, you have little choice available to you.

I can bet you that there is not up to 10% of South Africans who would be willing to do the menial and embarrassing work my parents and other foreigners did for as long as they did it and for as little as they did it were you to ask them today. So it annoys me, to the deepest part of my being when I see a South African open their mouth and cry “foul” against innocent foreigners. Let’s discuss this.

Arachnophobia – the fear of spiders.

Claustrophobia – the fear of small/tight/enclosed spaces.

Xenophobia – the fear of foreigners.

However individuals who are afraid of spiders do not go around killing spiders, rather they avoid spiders. Equally, individuals who are afraid of small and tight spaces do not go around trying to eliminate the existence of small spaces.

Thus xenophobia does not by definition imply the killing of foreigners. Yet, we continue to label this current wave of killings and murders in SA as xenophobic – and now the cooler term – “Afrophobic” attacks. Can we please just get real? What is happening in SA is a genocide, a genocide fuelled by a deep-seated hatred for which no single foreigner is responsible.

Before, you say this is too extreme, allow me to explain.

Genocide is the systematic/targeted killing of a specific tribe or race.

In South Africa’s case, this would be the senseless killings of non-South Africans, mostly those of African origin and some Pakistani, Bangladeshi and other non-African minorities.

I think the government, South African and international media are being too cowardly to call it what it is. They know what is going on in South Africa and yet they refuse to acknowledge it for fear of who knows what. Is it because there numbers are not high enough? Should we wait until a few good hundred thousand foreigners have been murdered before we speak the truth?

So now the value of human lives is being reduced to a debate on politically correct terms and phrases to protect certain interests. People are being butchered in the streets, and the country is worrying about bad PR. I hate that now, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, everyone is now trying to say, “Oh no, it’s not all South Africans that are doing this, hey. Just a few of those people there.” South Africans are trying to distance themselves from what is happening in their own backyards as though it is of any consolation to those watching their family members being sizzled in rubber rings. As if that is what matters – true South African style.

This is not the first wave of attacks of this nature in South Africa. In fact, the 2008 attacks were much worse in terms of raw numbers of casualties suffered than these have been so far. The issue of xenophobia is not a new one in SA. However, the differentiator in 2015 is that this wave is backed by a strong ideology; that somehow these attacks can be and are justified.

An ideology that sees merit in the argument that foreigners are stealing the jobs of locals, that they are stealing their women, that these “makwerekwere” are the cause of most ills in South African society.

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It is a shame how uninformed and how baseless these arguments are. Foreigners do not and CANNOT steal jobs in SA. Do you know how hard it is to get South African papers, just to get into the country – not to talk of getting a work permit and convincing any company to take on the cost of employing you as a foreigner? Unless you have some freaking scarce skills in the country – it just does not happen like that.

Secondly, just shut up and stop it. South Africans who embibe these arguments are lazy. There is a disgusting entitlement that is attached to this notion that jobs can be stolen. This implies that there are jobs waiting for you – of which there are none.

There are no freaking jobs waiting for anyone. Pick up a bucket and start washing cars. Put on your shoes and walk through your streets, sell tomatoes, eggs and tea – anything people eat, they will buy. Or pick up a book, hustle your way into university, work for a scholarship and get yourself an education. But stop this senselessness. Nobody is stealing your jobs.

I got my first job when I was 11 years old. I worked on the school bus in my town. I collected money for the bus driver, wrote out receipts and kept order on the bus. I didn’t get paid much, but it helped me learn first that nothing comes easy, I learnt to be responsible and accountable to someone else. Secondly it helped me pay for little extramural expenses I did at school which were not the priority for my parents at the time (and rightly so). In varsity, even though I had a tuition bursary, I worked two part time jobs and one contract job for the entire three years at Stellenbosch so I could pay for my feeding, my clothes, some additional materials etc. Yes my parents supported me as best they could, but naturally, part of growing up is that you don’t bother your parents for every Rand you need.

So people see me and my family now, several years later driving a decent car and living in an average house and they say, “Ningama kwekwere, asinifuni apha. Niqaphele, aningobalapha.”

“You are foreigners, we do not want you here. You better watch out, you are not of this place,” – unaware of and unwilling to hear of the years of struggle and hustle that came with the decent car and the average house. [Which, by the way, you can never fully own as SA law now restricts ownership of property by foreigners – but that is another discussion.]

And what has been the government’s response to the worsening unemployment and crime situation in the cities and suburbs that incites this violence and dissatisfaction amongst its people? To tighten immigration laws, border controls and any little room the foreigner may have had to just maybe survive in the menacing streets of Johannesburg. As if that is where the problem began.

Is it not the way our economy is structured? That there is limited room for unskilled labour in the workforce? That those who are not vocationally trained must then settle for employment outside of their existing areas of knowledge such as artisans, plumbers and electricians – whereas these skills are equally needed in a developing economy? That we have this stupid thing called BEE which in practice just ensures that the Black bourgeoisie get wealthier by hook or by crook while still protecting and cushioning the impact of democracy on old, white money and big business?

Is it really the little Ethiopian man with his spaza shop that is threatening your progress na Bhuthi? Is it really the Nigerian woman who braids hair and sells Fanta that is stealing your job and place in your own land na Sisi? I can’t deal.

If none of these arguments have merit for you, then think of the fact that during apartheid, Nigeria spent hundreds of dollars on the ANC protecting and moving its members across borders, Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania, Burundi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda all housed, supported and/or trained struggle heros with open arms and with no strings attached. How dare South Africans forget how much Africans did for them during apartheid. How dare you!

South Africans, go and learn your history. When you have read your history, then please teach the correct version to your children. Let them know that Africa helped put SA where it is now. Let them know that all blacks are not Xhosa or Zulu, but that that is irrelevant to the amount of dignity you accord to another human being. Teach your children that they must work for everything they want to have except your love as a parent. Teach your children that they are nothing without their neighbour – stop being selective about who Ubuntu applies to and does not. Teach them the truth about you.

The greatest enemy of the black man has always been himself. Not the colonialists. Not the apartheid architects. Only himself.

And as long as you refuse to take responsibility for where you are now, you will remain there. Kill us foreigners or not, it actually makes very little difference to your fortunes in life, people of Mzansi.

~ Lovelyn Nwadeyi

20 April 2015

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17 thoughts on “My thoughts on Phobias and the genocide taking place in South Africa

  1. Thank you so much for this Lovelyn. You are a star of a person. I would love for you to have mentioned the white genocide that is also adversely affecting our lovely country and nation. I just hope the people read and take your letter to heart!!

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  2. Hi Lovelyn….You are a star for what you have written here and wish so many others would also have your view on this whole situation.

    As far as “Stealing Jobs is concerned”…….(No job can be stolen if you are doing it)….If someone else gets appointed in your position, you obviously do not do it properly..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Lovelyn. That is without a doubt one of the most beautiful, honest and painful things I’ve read. You are an incredibly gifted and insightful author and exactly the kind of sensible and empathetic voice South Africa bitterly needs to defeat it’s ‘us and them’ mentality.

    Thank you for leaning into the discomfort and sharing your truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “The greatest enemy of the black man has always been himself. Not the colonialists. Not the apartheid architects. Only himself.” True that.
    Only a very small percentage seem to be able to step out of this mentality, Lovelyn, you can certainly include yourself in that minority.

    Your story is really touching, and disturbing in many ways, as many white people now, including myself seek to move our families to other countries like your parents did with you. And these emigrations are often-times romanticized as people living this great new life in Australia, Canada or the US. But it’s a damn hard thing to do, and then after all you’ve done, what prevents locals from wanting you dead or gone “because you’re not from there”?

    I sincerely hope this situation in SA can be resolved, but I fear that it will not, and when the bourgeoisie have been “reprogrammed” by the leaders of the country to leave the African foreigners alone, who will they turn on next?? My family name has only been here around 300 years… Are we from here?

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  5. Very well written! It saddens me to see how people of Mzanzi are acting..
    And scarybpart is most of the people are my age, the generation that should lead by example, he generation that should build the future, not look back on the past! My heart goes out to all in and around South Africa!

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  6. You are a brave and courageous family, I’m very proud of you and your family ….we stand with you in what you say and support you in whatever you may do, and my God smile on you all…☺️☺️🌟🌟🌟

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  7. Hi Lovelyn,
    Truer words haven’t been spoken about this recent wave of attacks. I lived in Cape Town for 5 years (high school and UCT) I am back in Nigeria now, I never had any intention to stay in Mzanzi; I just didn’t want to follow what had become the middle class trend in Nigeria and go to university in the UK or the States, I wanted to stay ‘at home’! So I found the top rated English university on our continent and applied. If anything all I did was add to the economy; I paid international fees, all my pocket money was from my parents in Nigeria and I never had a meaningful paying job while in UCT. I will study in UCT and go back to Lagos for all my internships.
    Even with all this said my experience with the locals was not different from yours. My first friends were other foreigners, then white South Africans I left Mzanzi without a single black South African friend to speak of. The one black South African friend I did make admitted to having a foreign parent when we got closer.
    ‘Stealing our jobs’ is an excuse to express a deep deep hatred for their sisters and brothers I still don’t understand.
    I was insulted on the streets and forced of combis for not being able to speak Xhosa, I was called a ‘white black girl’, I was asked by people I would meet for the first time if my dad was a drug dealer, a king or a crooked politician because no honest hard working people outside of South Africa live comfortably.
    Lagos is is full of South Africans now, I randomly hear a South African accent at least once a week, these are skilled expats who an in fact (now that I think about it) are doing jobs that many Nigerians are qualified to do, and even if this very populated country we are kind to the foreigner in our midst regardless of race.
    Can South Africans really forget our hospitality that quickly?
    We need to look into where the hate and anger truly come from, take a page from the book of these foreigners they hate so much and be kind to the stranger in your midst, remembering that if he could be comfortable at home he will be at home.

    Thank you for this article.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow powerful. Thought provoking and so true. Thank you for sharing you beautiful story and please let the universe show some mercy to its citizens and let us all live peacefully together.

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  9. Great article, well written. I wish all South Africans would follow your example and start building their futures instead of destroying others’. If only the SA government would lead by example and build instead of stealing wealth. Creed, colour, country of origin should be of no consequence in this century, We need leaders who instil the right values. Peace, empathy, work, community, love for all tribes.

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  10. Molo Lovelyn, what an insightful analysis of the issues that face us and for calling things as they are. Unaso isibindi sokubiza izinto ngokungathi zikhona. When you consider the richness of ulwimi lwamaXhosa and their love of the metaphor it is sad that they have forgotten some of the most compelling izaci such as unyawo alunampumlo. The culture of entitlement that now plagues our land sets local against foreigner and by showing the locals that akukho mpukane inqakulela enye you inadvertently bring home to them their own laziness and your success becomes a source of umona because you have done much with little and they have done little with much. I am also by definition ikwerekwere coming as I do from Scotland but being white I escape the maelstrom……….for the time being that is. As you stand up to be counted, my brother, you will find many standing up in support of you – ebumnyameni ekukhanyeni…..ekungazini esazeni…..kwintiyo ethandweni. Uxolo nembeko, Len.

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