01 June 2008

"It's not my problem" - Xenophobia and our government

It's been a while since my last post, but life's been hectic lately and I'm sure that you'll get over it. These are some photos of protest graffiti that has begun popping up around Cape Town. These shots are from a wall near Orange Street and were shot early last week. This is both good and bad, in my opinion. I appreciated how graffiti can be used as a potent and successful protest medium, but unfortunately it also tends to become heavily biased and misleading, as it is in these examples. Although I don't dispute that the impetus behind this work may have been driven by the best of intentions, it has been executed thoughtlessly and, as a consequence, has become an inflammatory gesture itself rather than an intelligent and provoking act of protest. Perhaps it's just me, but I don't feel that portraying all ANC members as trigger-happy, xenophobic monkeys is the best way to go about solving the explosive racial situation that we are facing in our country at the moment. The violent xenophobic acts are not being perpetrated by the ANC. They are acts fueled by fear, anxiety and misunderstanding being perpetrated by the underprivileged and often uneducated. They are people who feel that they have come up against a brink wall - that they have been let down by their country and government - and have been left with little or no other option but to lash out. Unfortunately, as is often the case in such situations, theses violent actions become directed towards those that are perceived as different or "alien". That is not to say that the ANC government shouldn't be held accountable for the event that have gone amiss. Mis-governance, an ignorance towards the needs of their country's people and what amounts to a policy of non-accountability have all fueled the events that have taken place. It came to light last week that the government was aware of the quickly growing xenophobic problems as long as three years ago and yet, as is more often than not the case, did nothing. The inaction of our ruling peoples make them at least partially accountable for the violence of the past few weeks. One might imagine though that now, with previous errors make evident and the need for carefully orchestrated efforts to quell this violence peacefully more dire than ever, the government might decide to pull up it's sock and get it's head in the ring. But nay, 'tis not to be. Rather than working to solve this problem, our esteemed heads of state are still arguing over who's responsibility it is to solve this problem. Our Minister of Home Affairs - the person being most leant on to try and "fix" this situation - has stated that: "It's not [her] problem." As if anything of this magnitude can be dropped at the feet of any one person. It strikes me as absurd that, even in the midst of this trouble, people are still squabbling to save face rather than working together to try and solve the crisis. It almost seems as though the prospect of actually having to do their job for a change is so alien that they would put more effort into passing the buck - risk the deaths of more innocent people - than admit to the people of their country that they have no idea what they're doing. At least we are now being spared the claims that this was all the work of a mysterious and malicious third party (well, mostly - our good ol' Minister of HA seems reluctant to put down her guns, still adamant that this is all the work of some malevolent, shadowy enemy-in-hiding, but this sort of nonsense is something that w are becoming accustomed to in our ruling "elite") and it seems less likely that a wave of imperialist dogs are going to sweep over our country at any second. What is distressing though is how many local businessmen (and women , I assume) are trying to use this violence to their advantage. There are numerous stories of local business owners collecting and arming groups of people and setting them loose on foreign owned stores in an attempt to eradicate the competition while having it blamed on xenophobic violence.

One must wonder whether this is going to get much worse before it gets any better. All we can really hope is that, sometime in the near future, someone is eventually going to do the right thing. So many people and businesses have lent themselves to aid the plight of those affected and displaced by the violence, but until we get some solid, honest action by the government, I fear that the battle to correct the upsetting course that our country has taken will be hard and unrewarding.

Let’s try and forget about laying blame for a moment and work towards lending our help to those really need it.

We can argue about whose fault it is later.

Oh well, I've ranted myself out. Studies demand that I sign off now, but I still have a little to say on the subject and will probably find more as the events progress, so pop around some other time and I'll be happy to bludgeon you a little more with my waffle. Peace and microphones.

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