Friday, September 13

Xenophobia in South Africa: A vision Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah warned Africa about in the 1960s


Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, warned as far back as the 1960s that African states attaining independence from European colonial oppressors had to be guarded as political independence without economic independence was fraught with many challenges. Displaying an envious understanding of the threats faced by the new states and the ploys of their former colonial oppressors, the man who authored a lot of books even as president warned African states gaining freedom was only one phase of the battle won. He noted that if those states did not control their economic fortunes, they risked being decimated. With new attacks by South Africans on other African nationals, chiefly Nigerians, many Africans have expressed anger at the attacks, reminding the people from the rainbow nation of the support countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe gave them that ultimately led to their independence in 1994. Since Monday, mobs have been looting shops and torching trucks driven by foreigners in various parts of South Africa. The African nationals are blamed for taking people’s jobs; others accuse them of pushing drugs.

The attacks on foreign stores began a day after South African truckers started a nationwide strike on Sunday to protest against the employment of foreign drivers, reports the BBC. They blocked roads and torched foreign-driven vehicles mainly in the south-western KwaZulu-Natal province. Police say five people have been killed and 189 people have been arrested. Below is Nkrumah’s acute diagnosis in his 1970 book, “Class Struggle in Africa” of what is inevitable in many African states, including South Africa if the resources of the country did not benefit citizens but foreign nationals. On page 66, he stated: “neocolonialist states where there are immigrant workers, and where unemployment is rife … the anger of workers is surreptitiously fomented and directed by the neocolonialist puppet regime not so much against its own reactionary policies as against the “alien” workers. It is they who are blamed for the scarcity of jobs, the shortage of houses, rising prices and so on.

The result is that the African immigrant worker is victimized both by the government and by his own fellow workers. The government brings in measures to restrict immigration, to limit the opportunities of existing immigrants, and to expel certain categories. The indigenous workers for their part, are led to believe by the government’s action, that the cause of unemployment and bad living conditions is attributable in large measure to the presence of immigrant workers. Mass feeling against them is aroused and helps to increase any already existing national and ethnic animosities. Instead of joining with immigrant workers to bring pressure on the government, many of them strongly support measures taken against them. In this, they show a lack of awareness of the class nature of the struggle and the bourgeoisie benefits from the split among the ranks of the working class. In the context of the African socialist revolution, there is no justification for regarding non-African workers as a hindrance to economic progress, and there is similarly no justification for the victimization and the expulsion of migrant African labour from one territory or another. In Africa, there should be no African “alien”. All are Africans. The enemy-wall to be brought down and crushed is not the African “alien” worker but Balkanisation and the artificial territorial boundaries created by imperialism.”Will this call be heeded by the African people and worked on, guided by their leaders?

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