With reference to the recent attacks on foreign-owned shops around the country, particularly in Soweto, some say it’s caused by the fear of foreigners, while others say it’s the fear of strangers or the unknown.
Whatever way in which you define it, xenophobia remains an issue that seeks to undermine our lives and welfare.
Xenophobia, in my opinion, is not a cross-border phenomenon as it is mainly perceived to be, but rather a tribal, ethnic, cultural and pigmentation form of “racism”.
Although it can undoubtedly be said that people from outside the borders of South Africa suffer the most, it should be borne in mind that such paranoia and distrust also exist among fellow South Africans.
It is in this context therefore, that I agree with the definition of xenophobia as the fear of strangers and the unfamiliar.
South African tertiary institutions, particularly NMMU which I attended, can arguably be said to have the most diverse cultural, ethnic and natural set-up of its kind with students from as far as China, Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Botswana. Local South African students among themselves boast a rich diversity that ranges from Xhosas, Zulus, Vendas, Sothos and Shangaans and Afrikaans.
Unfortunately, each and every one of these groups has its own stereotypes and perception of the other – thus an approach and way of making one’s group seem superior than the other.
I am very, very proud to say I have friends from uncountable various groups – be they local or international.
I am very sure that those of you in a similar situation can testify that it has educated you a lot about tolerance and acceptance. You are probably asking yourself if this is possible.
Yes it is, that’s if you are willing. But there is only one piece of advice that can lead us all to that realisation: “Do not lean upon your own opinion, but rather get to know others”.
Accept and respect fellow human beings not only for what they are or where they come from, but also for who they are.
I really hope all readers embrace this with calm and sanity.
-Concerned reader, King William’s Town