Photo of the Day: What value do we place on African lives?

A queue for food provided by local community members at the sports field in Isipingo, south of Durban, April 13, 2015. Several hundred foreign nationals have sought refuge in the tents after xenophobia driven violence forced them to flee their homes and businesses.

Today for the first time since Mandela was freed, I am ashamed to be a South African. All the years of pride in my birthplace have been replaced with loss and disbelief. The heroes our soil created who believed in freedom and equality regardless of anything else — race, gender, religion, creed and origin — Lilian Ngoyi, Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani, Ruth First, Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe, Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Braam Fischer, Albert Luthuli, among the many must be weeping silently in their graves. How can it be that blood we are shedding flows from people of Africa — the Congolese, the Mozambicans, the Zimbabweans, the Malawians and the Somalis. How did we get to this point where we kill and attack other Africans on the basis of origin?

The letter that I want to write to my sister’s unborn child, whose father is Mozambican, is that I am sorry that I did nothing. That I did not toyi toyi outside parliament demanding that the President take action and that King Zwelithini publicly condemn those who were killing and stealing in his name. That while I admired how the world responded to Je suis Charlie, I could not create the same anger and protest for the students in Garissa, let alone the African foreigners in South Africa. That all I could do was condemn the atrocity among friends and family but that I could not stand up for her like the heroes before me had stood up for me. That as South Africans we had become so numb to violence that another African life killed violently or removed forcibly was not as concerning for us as getting tickets to the One Direction concerts were or berating Eskom for their failure to provide artificial light while our internal candle had been snuffed out. That I did not say to the ANC women’s league ‘for goodness sake where are you? What are you doing while thugs kill and steal from people and chase mothers carrying their babies? You were there for Reeva Steenkamp when her family needed you most but where are you now when your country and its daughters and her children need you even more?’ That I did nothing except pray, pray that even though my uncle Thekiso Matima and other noble MKs had been willing to risk their lives so that I could be free, there was nothing I could do for my cousins from Somalia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Angola who were being attacked simply because they were not from South Africa.

What humanity is there in killing and chasing away our own brothers and sisters? What is the value we place on African lives?

Further Reading