By Ambassador Emmanuel Mwamba
Okey people, let’s gather here and discuss.
By now you have been numbed by the numerous horrific videos shared on social media depicting the ghastly attacks against foreign nationals.
Some are new, others are old but are circulated during this period.
They cause the same outrage as when they occurred in 2008 or 2015.
And then there is the rise of fake news during this period, which causes similar outrage and tensions.
But first things first.
We must condemn using the inerrant truth, without hesitation and without resorting to excuses, ablution of facts or entertaining justifications, the recent xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals occuring in South Africa.
Our condemnation should be in an unequivocal and unambiguous voice.
The senseless loss of precious lives, the wanton looting and damage to property is totally unacceptable.
This also violates fundamental human rights such as right to life, and right to property.
Life is sacred, foreign or local, documented or undocumented, illegal or legal, it remains so.
Further the sense of deep fear, trauma and uncertainty caused to foreign nationals by these attacks during this period is unimaginable.
We are all troubled that no one seems to held accountable, or given punitive and deterrent measures for the killing of innocent lives and the pillaging of property from innocent people.
Causes and reasons of xenophobia advanced in South Africa include socio-economic reasons such as high unemployment rate(foreigners are taking our jobs ), poverty and inadequate or lack of provisions of social services and crime.
South Africa has a population of over 56million and contrary to what is asserted has actually a small number of foreign nationals of about 2.1million (including Africans, Chinese, Indians, Pakistans and others).
South Africa has the most industrialized economy and its manufacturing sector is the largest in Africa(and as an export country, relies on the rest of Africa’s market).
The size of its economy is only comparable to Nigeria and Egypt
How is Zambia affected by the attacks?
In the case of Zambia, only two Zambians out of 15,000 of those residents in South Africa, have been directly affected by the recent xenophobic attacks.( a truck driver and one resident in South Africa).
Of course we are not denigrating the sense of fear by those Zambians resident in South Africa.
We must begin to put things in perspective so that we don’t encourage disproportionate or unwarranted retaliatory responses and reactions, in both Zambia and South Africa.
It must be said with reference to our rich struggle history, that Zambia stands in solidarity with the rest of Africa and should never allow the injury, maiming and killing of any African and the dispossession of one’s hard-earned property.
But we must strike the balance.
Zambia is among the few states that have her nationals in the smallest number.
Zambia has engineers, doctors, nurses, bankers, accountants and others earning a livelihood in South Africa’s business entities.
We also have a number of small and medium entrepreneurs and those in the informal sector.
Further, Zambians have a good record in the country and are law-abiding residents and only a handful are in prison.
However Zambia is one of the largest trading, economic and investment partner with South Africa in the region.
Zambia hosts over 120 South African companies that have invested in Zambia including giants like MTN, Shoprite, Standard Bank and FNB Bank.
South African Airways flies more frequently to Lusaka, Ndola, and Livingstone than it does to the rest of the world.
There are hundreds of trucks moving up and down and numerous buses per day transporting people between the two states every day.
It is for this reason that this particular wave of attacks against foreign nationals affected Zambia more, as it initially was focused on trucks.
This threatened Zambia’s sea route for its imports (Durban), and also threatened the trade between the two states as protesting truck drivers were threatening to blockade and destroy any foreign truck or that driven by a foreign national.
It must be emphasised that Zambia shares this corridor with our neighboring states, Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC) and Malawi.
As a result, the truck traffic between Zambia and South Africa is huge.
It is also for this reason that we are investing in the US$259million Kazungula Bridge project, over the mighty Zambezi River.
Until Zambia improves tremendously our other sea routes (TAZARA, and Great North Road, Nakonde-Daresalaam Port, Chingola-Lubumbanshi-Bengwela rail to Lobito Bay Port, Livingstone-Sesheke-Walvis Bay Port, and Chipata-Lilongwe -Nakala Port, and Beira Port), Durban so far remains our reliable port.
We must find a lasting solution to these xenophobic tendencies have become cyclical and seasonal.
Many africans express indignation that South Africans have shown lack of gratitude to the immense sacrifices made by countries such as Zambia, Tanzania, Nigeria and others.in ensuring that it attained its Freedom.
This is attributed to South Africa’s youth that are form a large population of the country and might not be intimately aware of these facts or the facts appear distant to them.
This is the load of work that leaders of South Africa have to do.
This has to be done by writing its recent history, memorializing the struggle and by introducing these facts through film, art and other popular forms of education.
We should also remember that to achieve its Freedom, many South African leaders that prosecuted the struggle were in 3 categories.
Those that went into exile (Oliver Tambo, Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma and others), those that were jailed and were in prison (Nelson Mandela, Govani Mbeki, Walter Sisulu) and others like President Cyril Ramaphosa, Albertina Sisulu and Winnie Mandela that waged the struggle on the streets.
Many pillars were used to wage this long and relentless struggle that included; the liberation parties and its military wings, trade unions, the Church and external support from countries like Zambia, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and others.
Zambia has been lucky and is also respected for her role during the liberation struggle.
It must be noted that no Zambian has died so far from the xenophobic attacks that occurred in; 2008, 2015, 2016, 2018 and the 2019.
But Africa is matching towards free movement of people and goods.
Africa is moving to a borderless, and barrier-free Africa.
African member states have since implemented the Africa Continental Free Trade Area(AfCFTA) agreement.
Africa has achieved so much for its progress to be negated by xenophobia and xenophobic tendencies.
The author is Zambia’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union and previously served as High Commissioner to South Africa