SADC barking up the wrong tree

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zumaAS Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state and government, including Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, met for an extraordinary meeting yesterday, the elephant of xenophobia overshadowed the palatial conference centre in Harare, Zimbabwe.

South African President, Jacob Zuma, was expected to take flak from other SADC leaders at the one-day summit for not quickly arresting the xenophobic attacks which saw seven people dying and thousands displaced in Africa’s most advanced economy. The televised images of armed gangs attacking immigrants and looting foreign-owned stores have understandably sparked a backlash from the rest of the continent considering the price Africa paid to ensure South Africa’s freedom from apartheid.

While Africans may want to chastise South Africa for attacking their brethren, there is no denying that the continent is beset with a serious immigration crisis.

At one end of the African continent, thousands are risking life and limb by embarking on a perilous journey on ramshackle vessels from Libya in search of a better life in Europe. At the other end, the tension between African migrants and South Africans reached fever pitch last week as the competition for ever scarcer resources intensifies.

As Mr Zuma said recently, in a not so diplomatic manner following a barrage of criticisms from home and abroad, there is a need to interrogate the reasons for the modern day exodus on the African continent.

“We cannot shy away from discussing the reasons that forced migrants to flee to South Africa,” he said.

Underlying this migration crisis is the unavoidable fact of migrants fleeing their homes because of acute poverty and repression.

Who can blame anyone fleeing the throes of Boko Haram, ISIS and the other Islamic fundamentalists wreaking havoc in north and west Africa?

Countries such as Libya, Somalia and the Central African Republic have become failed states while the African Union (AU), and the continent’s regional blocs sit idly by.

Further south, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who is poignantly the current AU and SADC chairman, has managed to run down one of the most advanced and promising countries on the continent.

Despite continuous human rights violations and blatant election rigging, which have earned him European Union and United States sanctions, Mr Mugabe’s poll “victories” have been met with tacit approval by SADC and the AU.

To its credit, Botswana has refused to toe the line of other African countries by calling a spade a spade, much to the chagrin of the Zimbabwean leader.

South Africa has also been complicit in Mr Mugabe’s fraud, with the Khampepe report by two South African High Court judges at the request of ex-South African President Thabo Mbeki on the 2002 Zimbabwe presidential elections having revealed that the polls were neither free nor fair.

The report was released last November following a protracted six-year legal battle between the Mail & Guardian and successive South African governments over its release.

By tolerating repression and allowing the awarding of the rotational AU and SADC chairmanship to the likes of Mr Mugabe, the African Union and SADC are rewarding delinquency and giving hostage to fortune.

They should not be surprised when the suffering masses stampede to countries they perceive to be better, thereby creating an immigration crisis.

Ironically, the subject of yesterday’s summit was industrialisation, with the leaders failing to interrogate why so many of their citizens head for South Africa, the continent’s most sophisticated economy, to find work.

As if to buttress the ineffectuality of the summit, opposition activists protesters were yesterday demanding that SADC leaders focus on saving Zimbabwe from Mr Mugabe whom they said is an evil dictator who caused too much suffering for ordinary people.

Only until African leaders address the underlying causes of migration, which are grinding poverty and repression, the crisis will continue unabated and instances of xenophobic violence could spring up again.

 

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