Zambia is a peaceful nation. Zambia is a Christian nation. Zambians are the most friendly people in the world. These statements are what we have constantly told ourselves, sadly, this last week has caused an earth shattering dent into those statements. It has brought into question many of the things we pride ourselves in. The xenophobic attacks on foreigners in the compounds this week may have brought to the surface some of the hidden resentments towards foreigners that exists in our communities.
The looting and destruction of the foreign particularly Rwandese owned shops in compounds such as Garden, Zingalume, Chaisa and others was done under the pretext of retaliation. In the midst of the recent ritual killings many have found it easy to blame it on foreigners. After all no Zambian can be so heartless as to slash someone open to get their organs. So we think. It is also difficult to fathom how Rwandese in the current economic situation can have flourishing groceries while Zambian ones are struggling. Some people in the compounds believe that it must be as a result of some witchcraft which involves private parts, hearts, eyes and livers.
|Freezer looted for Rwandese shop|
Last year, we spat in disgust when South Africa was experiencing xenophobic attacks against Mozambicans, Nigerians, Zimbabweans and other Africans. We scolded them for their un-Africaness. Today, we have been hit in the face by the same attacks we condemned. We as a nation must not cheat ourselves that this resentment towards foreigners success in this country is something new. We lie to ourselves that we hold hands and sing kumbaya with all people who are not Zambian. Yet how many times have we heard statements such as "These Chinese, these Congolese, these Zimbabweans...." Sadly, some of this tone in the message has come from some politicians who are looking for scapegoats to their inability to function as leaders.
The danger lies when blanket statements of a certain nationality or even group of people are made as the cause of our pain, poverty, hunger and suffering. Every time that feeling arises we associate it with that specific group of people even if they may have nothing to do with it whatsoever. The mob mentality that was exhibited in the compounds did not just arise in a day. This may have been tensions that have been brewing for months and possibly years that were never addressed.
The level of comprehension is quite worrying too. Are these communities saying that they only reason the Rwandese shops are flourishing is because of witchcraft? Would they have felt differently if the Rwandese shops were struggling? Having spent a year in a foreign country I got to understand that immigrants tend to work harder than nationals. This is because they do not have the full benefits that citizens get. Therefore, they have no other option but to work and toil for their businesses to ensure that they succeed. They do not have the entitlement that citizens get. We have seen how countries in Europe and America are attempting to make it much more difficult for people to migrate there my cutting down their benefits.
I am not blind to the fact that there are some foreigners who are involved in criminal activities in this country. But we cannot allow ourselves to persecute all foreigners on the basis of a few who have been caught on the wrong end of the law. Further, we can no longer hide behind the curtain of Zambia being a peaceful and Christian nation if we do not make any efforts in making it that way. Our leaders, political, social and cultural have a strong role to play in encouraging dialogue and the co-existence of all people regardless of nationality, race, or tribe. Finally, can people get off their behinds and get to work, others are successful because maybe they have made a decision to work hard.