Xenophobia May Again Flare Up in South Africa

Prof. Johan Malan, Mossel Bay, South Africa (July 2010)

There are many rumours on threatening xenophobia (hatred of foreigners) which are circulating in South Africa. They are not completely unfounded because South Africa is becoming a place of convergence for the whole of Africa. Unemployed people and criminals from all over Africa are streaming into our country because it has a reasonably strong economy and also offers possibilities for crime syndicates to flourish here. There is strong competition among workers in their struggle for survival, and this gives rise to the hatred of foreigners. Illegal immigrants are prepared to work for less money, in some cases only for food, thereby depriving local blacks of their source of income.

It is necessary to consider a number of factors which all play a role in xenophobia, lest one runs the risk of only seeing one of its aspects and over-emphasising that out of proportion:

Historical factors

There always used to be xenophobia in Africa, as is evidenced by the long history of inter-ethnic violence and tribal wars on the continent. Foreigners were either driven away and killed or subjected by military means and the surviving members (mostly women and children) assimilated into the society of the conquerors. The kingdoms of Shaka and Dingaan among the Zulus and Moshesh among the Southern Sothos were typical examples of this.

A new dimension of xenophobia was established through the colonising of Africa. White countries of Europe targeted Africa to lay hold of large territories for the supply of raw materials in aid of their developing economies. Racial tension arose from this situation as the white rulers kept local blacks in a situation of subjection. The blacks stereotyped their experience by the perception of all whites as oppressors and exploiters. This strained relationship was followed by a long history of black-white-confrontation.

Further inter-ethnic tension was caused by ill-conceived actions of the colonisers in Africa. In the process of colonisation they determined geographic instead of ethnic boundaries, thereby grouping together hostile tribes in one country and also dividing existing tribal areas by allowing national boundaries to cut through them.

The dominant political, economic and military position which whites maintained in the colonies had the effect of curbing inter-ethnic violence among the blacks as they suppressed these clashes. Furthermore, white domination gave rise to the unification of a country’s black population within the framework of newly-established liberation movements that waged a struggle against white domination. This ideological battle soon became violent and played a major role in the independence of European colonies in Africa.

Independent black states

Ghana (Gold Coast during colonial times) was the first black state in Africa south of the Sahara to gain independence from Britain in 1957. The name “Ghana” (“Warrior-King”) was restored as this was the name of an indigenous empire which controlled large parts of West Africa in pre-colonial times. After Ghana, a large number of colonies gained independence, and the process was completed when South Africa, which was already an independent state, also came under the control of black majority rule.

The process which started in Ghana was consummated in South Africa in 1994. It renders these two countries important landmarks in Africa’s political self-realisation and also fosters a special bond between them. In spite of their independence, African countries are still engaged in a struggle against the dominance which white and Asian countries enjoy internationally in the political, economic, technological and sports fields. That is the reason why black Africa so strongly identified with Ghana when their under-20 soccer team became the first African team to win the FIFA world cup final by beating Brazil in 2009. In 2010 Ghana progressed to the quarter finals of the senior competition. In South Africa this team was nicknamed the BaGhana-BaGhana – in a certain sense being the representatives or forerunners of the Bafana-Bafana.

The fact that black Africa’s political independence was not the magical door to a utopia, gave rise to a long series of civil wars and coups on the continent. The common white enemy has lost its domination, and old ethnic conflicts, as well as conflict between various liberation movements, strongly emerged. This time it was black-against-black violence because only small elite groups enjoyed the privileges of independence, and continued exploiting the majority.

Affirmative action took on such absurd extremes that leaders in government – and more so in state corporations and the private sector – paid themselves and their fellow-members in management such excessive salaries and bonuses that it left workers with no choice but to rise against their relatively poor compensation. These problems were aggravated by the economic recession of 2009/2010, as well as the large influx of illegal immigrants to countries such as South Africa. The competition for work and the control of resources became fierce and often leads to violence – including xenophobia, as poor foreigners are prepared to work for less.

The present position of whites

Even though whites have lost their political control over the country this does not mean that politically-motivated genocide is perpetrated against them by black militant groups, although many of them may think that is the case. Neither are South African whites regarded as foreigners who should be driven from the country – in any way not by a significant number of blacks. There are indeed small groups of severely militant blacks who are supporters of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, and who would like to drive whites from their farms. But they do not enjoy the support of the majority of members in the ANC alliance and are often repudiated.

In spite of these facts there is a group of far-right whites who suffer from a self-imposed anxiety complex because they think that they may at any time now become the victims of a countrywide campaign of genocide against them. They quote extra-biblical prophets such as “visionary” Van Rensburg and Johanna Brandt to create the scenario of the “night of the long knives” when, they maintain, whites everywhere will be killed by blacks after a prominent black leader has died and will have been buried for a week. They also allege that vuvuzelas are blown to summon the help of the ancestral spirits for the coming racial war which will allegedly break out shortly after the Soccer World Cup tournament. This fear has already led to the preparation of refugee camps in rural areas where surviving whites should take refuge.

The Southlanders (Afr. Suidlanders) as well as various other Israel-oriented groups (akin to British Israelism) are involved with this campaign. They practise replacement theology by referring to themselves as Israel. An Old Testament orientation is fostered among supporters, in which they are destined for a bloody battle against heathen nations. They believe that the Lord will give them victory and in parts of South Africa the flag of the former Boer republics will fly again. However, there is considerable strife, corruption and deception among them, and what they do cannot be described as a “Christian” campaign.

The great majority of whites fortunately entertain a more realistic and objective view on this problem, although many of them suffer from ignorance on what the Bible says about the end-time. Because of this deficiency they are also not well prepared on what the future holds for us. Let us first consider events on ground level to see what we can expect in the near future:

Greater ethnic fusion and tension. Because of the government’s poor immigration control and insufficient patrolling of our borders the influx of foreigners will assume even greater proportions. South Africa is becoming a microcosm of the entire black Africa, and that will change the nature of political control and also make it more controversial and contentious. A split in the ruling party because of dissatisfied workers under the control of Cosatu (Congress of South African Trade Unions) is a big possibility. New alliances and pressure groups can be formed, which may lead to a large degree of political instability. But the revolt will not primarily be aimed at whites since they have already been politically marginalised.

A major battle for control over economic and natural resources. That includes control over business enterprises, farming and agricultural land. Affirmative actions can, therefore, continue and close the door to more white males to appointments on management level – and even to entry levels for young men. The expectedly single biggest problem will occur in the    area of land reform. That may come from two sides: firstly, more pressure may come from government to disown farms while secondly, there may be an increase in farm occupation by squatters, unemployed people and instigated rebels. Violence is inherently part of some of these occupants and the police will definitely have to act more proactively to protect farmers and their interests.

An increase in crime. The wave of crime in the country is aimed at all people – not only against whites. Although the government and its police service can do more to curb the crime rate, their efforts will not nearly be enough to ensure the safety of its citizens. All people should take measures to protect themselves and their possessions. This problem is not only confined to Africa and is busy increasing all over the world. To flee from one country to another will not necessarily bring relief.

Biblical scenario

The Bible predicts something much worse than xenophobia for the end-time. It refers to a great tribulation when the Antichrist will gain control over the world. According to Revelation 13, he will institute a new world order of political, religious and economic unity on earth. During that time, many wars and natural disasters will occur on earth, but Christians who are spiritually worthy will escape the time of divine judgements (Luke 21:36).

We should look at the bigger picture and determine our actions accordingly. South Africans should not make the mistake of predicting a racially-based war of annihilation on the basis of historical conflicts. Neither should they make the mistake of putting themselves in place of Israel and start listening to the deceptive voices of their own prophets. More importantly still: we should not fall victim to the ecumenical thinking and globalism of the Antichrist’s coming new world order, as we would then deny the true Christ. That will be the most costly mistake that any person can make.