When South African President Cyril Ramaphosa joined a legion of regional and international leaders for the State funeral of former President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe over the weekend, he was indeed a brother in mourning.
However, the mourners’ reaction when he addressed the crowd jostled him to reality that the bane of xenophobia has indeed dented his country’s relations with the rest of Africa.
Still smarting from the jeering and booing, President Ramaphosa immediately apologised, adding that the recent flare up of violence in his country goes against the spirit of oneness that was championed by Pan African stalwarts such as Cde Mugabe and former South African leaders, Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo.
The crowd, naturally cheered after our dear comrade profusely acknowledged the negative impact of xenophobia with promises to action on the problem.
We take solace in President Ramaphosa’s words, and action of intent to end xenophobic attacks, that has left 12 dead, while plunging thousands of foreigners into anxiety as they do not know if they are next in line.
Next in line to die violently!
We believe President Ramaphosa’s apology and his decision to set up a special team of envoys to brief other African countries on the steps his government has taken to combat xenophobia in South Africa, opens new frontiers for honest, robust and fruitful engagement.
The call marks the first step to ensure that xenophobia does not recur, and should not be the basis of regional disintegration at a time Africa needs to unite as one bloc, to fight against an avalanche of challenges, including neo-colonialism.
In the last five years, xenophobic attacks have become part of the news cycle. The outrage over such macabre attacks of African nations by South African is intensely growing.
In expressing their distaste and hate for their black brothers and sisters, whom they are accusing of taking away their jobs, the South Africans have torched a fire — to the bodies and minds of Africans — which will take long to extinguish.
Beyond the colour of skin and the imperialist borders which gave birth to states and nations, Africans are one people, whose background is deeply rooted into the struggles they endured to unyoke themselves from the shackles of colonialism.
Africa’s intense determination to maintain the ties that bind it together saw member countries fight alongside comrades south of the Limpopo to end apartheid in South Africa.
All these ties cannot be wished away overnight. It therefore defies the logic why some South African nationals should decide to perpetrate violence against their own.
The same spirit of oneness further cemented the whole concept of brotherhood which has been pushed by African founding fathers with proponents like Kwame Nkrumah, Kenneth Kaunda and Julius Nyerere.
So, the continued brutal acts by South Africans to their brothers and sisters across Africa cast aspersions on that part of history, which the whole continent dearly cherishes.
Already questions are flying across about Africa’s true identity. “If African nations are truly siblings, why do some pinch others repeatedly without reprimand?”
With potential threats of losing such a rich history of a people, who united for a cause, we therefore call on the South African government to end the problem of xenophobia.
As South Africa’s neighbours, we feel this unjust, brutal and sad turn of events as a result of xenophobic attacks, can impact negatively on relations between the countries.
We cannot allow that to happen.
Zimbabwe and South Africa are one people divided by a river, a mere physical feature which should not strain relations to the point of spilling blood.
Inter-marriages and cultural exchanges across the border between South Africans and Zimbabweans are a common feature and they continue to flourish as nationalities from both countries regularly interact.
Naturally we are all greatly disturbed and hurt by the senseless violence in South Africa and call on South Africa to bring to book the perpetrators of such heinous acts.
We therefore call for immediate cessation of these xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals to avoid loss of life reminiscent of the 2014 attacks were several people died.
We urge President Ramaphosa to walk the talk and bring an end to such barbaric and vilification of African brothers and sisters.
Should President Ramaphosa’s call to his African brothers gets louder, Africa will be there to assist him and his government to end this heinous attack on Ubuntu.