I am a Zimbabwean living in South Africa for just over a decade; I know only too well what it means to have to start over in a foreign land with little more than the clothes on your back.
No, this is not an invitation to a pity party hosted by me on behalf of the poor foreigners living in South Africa. Quite the contrary. These ones are not at all poor; it is their push and will to escape the poverty that makes them heroes of their families.
In the past couple of days, the country has literally gone up in a wave of looting and wanton destruction of businesses, mainly owned by foreign nationals.
I witnessed this just outside my home. A Mozambican couple was attacked and had their merchandise stolen by a weapon-wielding crowd.
Their business? Selling fruit and veggies on the street corner.
The reason for the attack? They are “bloody kwerekweres (a derogatory name referring to foreign nationals of African descent living in SA) busy stealing businesses, jobs from South Africans”, according to one of the attackers.
“These people take everything – including our women!” yelled one man.
The couple has not returned to their stall since then, along with scores of other shop owners whose businesses were stripped of everything and destroyed.
I fear for my life when the school my children go to is forced to shut its doors because it is run by foreigners. South African children attend there too and get a good education – but who cares, let the foreigners’ children stay at home and miss out on school time.
The perpetrators of this violence will not even get to see this article: they do not read.
The ones that do read already know this is wrong. It pretty much feels like preaching to the choir but the choir has a voice and may it sing this message to the mountain top.
The world needs to know that South Africa is not represented by the few hooligans; that it is still a land of opportunity for all who live in it and obey the laws of the land as envisioned by Nelson Mandela and other greats.
South Africa does not need people who are capable of setting another human being alight without batting an eyelid. Such people are dangerous.
It may seem like they are cleaning up the country now, but who will they turn on one day when they want to throw a tantrum and there is no foreign national left to burn?
To the rest of the African leadership who in times like these are quick with statements condemning the events unfolding in South Africa, I have this to say: what are you doing globetrotting and issuing statements while your people burn in foreign lands?
Who are you and who are you leading when your people are dying while trying to escape their country of birth?
He who leads and no one follows is merely taking a walk – an African proverb.