Durban hit hard by Xenophobia

“Why are you coming to S. Africa?”, the question came out in a mix of anger, annoyance and accusation.

“My brother is sick”, came the meager reply.

The setting was the South Africa-Swaziland border. After a four hour taxi (mini-bus) ride, I stood there half asleep watching this scene unfold. As the man in front of me, a native of Swaziland got interrogated in what must of been his third or fourth language (English) by a South African Immigration officer, I, the American was stamped and shuffled through without so much as a question.

“This must be the tenth Swazi who is coming to visit a sick brother in South Africa today”, shouted another immigration officer from across the room.

Little did I know that this one event would be a foreshadowing for what were to happen in the coming weeks.

Over the last two weeks, Xenophobia has been all over the news. Dating back to 2008, when riots and looting began in Johannesburg before spreading across the country, South Africa has a long history in its short time as a democracy. Recent events in KwaZulu Natal  have set off a new string of riots, looting, and killings across the province. It has also shed a new light on the work that PeacePlayers does, specifically within SA. Sure we’re here to help bridge divides between different South African communities. At the same time, perhaps without even knowing at times, we’re bridging divides between S. Africans and refugees from different African countries such as Zimbabwe, Congo and Mozambique to name a few.

Below, PPI-SA staffers Sbahle Mkhize and Ntobeko Ncgamu talk about the recent events, their feelings and hope for the future:

The recent outbreaks in attacks against our fellow Africans are heartbreaking for me. It saddens me that Africans are fighting Africans. With the progression South Africa has made since apartheid, these attacks are moving us backwards. The same people who our fathers, uncles and brothers are attacking are the same people who protected Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and other great leaders when they went into exile in countries like Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Angola. The increase in crime, violence and substance abuse in South Africa is not due to the increase in immigrants and refugees. Blaming them is just the easy way out. The S. African  Government needs to re-assess their reasoning and stop blaming harmless individuals who are trying to make a living for themselves. It’s scary that people in South Africa can even believe that crime has color! There needs to be a huge mindset shift in this country which in turn, will influence the people of this Nation. Phansi nge-Xenophobia!!!! (Translated: Xenophobia is wrong!)

– Sbhale Mkhize

Girls from four different PPI communities at last year's City Wide Tournament

Girls from four different PPI communities at last year’s City Wide Tournament

I have seen and witnessed the craziness of my fellow South Africans first hand all because of Xenophobia. Watching and hearing about people getting attacked, beaten and sometimes killed just for being from a different country makes me sick. We are supposed to be the rainbow nation. It’s time that we as a nation stand up to discrimination like this. Xenophobic attachs are a crime and should be prosecuted!

Since joining PeacePlayers International – South Africa I have met a number of people from different countries and different parts of the world. Here at PPI, no matter where you come from we treat you like family. Part of our mission is to bridge divides, develop leaders and change perception. Our participants encompass our S. African tradition of Ubuntu (humanity, hospitality, love) everyday with the way they interact with their teammates, teachers, coaches and children from other communities. The PPI children and coaches are our hope for the future.

 – Ntobeko Ncgamu


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