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South Africa, what is this? Where is the spirit of ubuntu?

The Shona people have a saying that goes: “Munhu munhu navanhu.” The Ndebele and the Zulus say: “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.” The statement means one’s being is through or because of (other) people.

In Malawi the Chewa people say: “Kali kokha nkanyama, tili awiri ntiwanthu”, meaning when you are on your own you are as good as an animal of the wild; when there are two of you, you form a community.

Nelson Mandela, former South African president, talking about ubuntu in 2006, said: “A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he did not have to ask for food or for
water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of ubuntu.”

“It is the essence of being human,” celebrated South African social rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu explained “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human
together,” he added.

Ubuntu is a philosophy that has been passed across generations in Africa. Ubuntu is a belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.

For many generations, Africans have understood the potential of human beings collectively working together as one to achieve goals.

The ongoing xenophobic attacks that have rocked South Africa, where South Africans are attacking fellow Africans, does not only go against the spirit of ubuntu embraced over the years,
but is archaic.

This is not the first time that South Africa has grabbed international headlines with its citizens attacking foreigners, mostly from Africa.

Violence against foreign citizens and African refugees has become increasingly common in South Africa and it’s high time the practice must be stopped.

South Africa’s biggest-selling reggae artiste and Rastafarian, Lucky Dube, should be turning in his grave because his own people are fighting and killing fellow Africans especially
after penning the song, Different Colour, a song that talks about one people, despite them coming from different backgrounds.

Xenophobia does not only threaten the lives and livelihoods of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants, but also threatens the economic and political stability and its
relations with other countries on the globe.

What is more disturbing and worrying is that the South African government has come up with a plethora of action plans to combat xenophobia, however, the government has taken a lukewarm
approach and it is high time they should walk the talk and implement deterrent measures against perpetrators of violence that include arrests and conviction of the culprits of
xenophobic attacks.

More so, resources must be channelled towards more oversight, training, human and financial resources towards anti-xenophobia programming.

Furthermore, effort is needed in building a society, especially in a highly globalised world, of respect for diversity.

Future generations deserve nothing less than a world built on principle that each and every one of us, including immigrants and refugees, have a right to be treated equally and fairly.

The global society is shaped by migration and it ought to be understood that migration is inherent in human nature.

Moses Chibaya

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