Now is not the time to turn our backs on fel­low Africans

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

De­ci­sion to leave your coun­try of birth to seek shel­ter, or work, is not an easy one to make for im­mi­grants

ACOUPLE of days ago, I read an ar­ti­cle in the Washington Post about the in­creas­ing num­ber of Venezue­lans flood­ing the bor­der towns of Brazil and Colom­bia in search of food and work.

Venezuela, once an oil-rich coun­try, is suf­fer­ing from food short­ages and its peo­ple are fac­ing star­va­tion. And they are now flee­ing their na­tive land.

When asked about the in­creas­ing num­ber flood­ing to Colom­bia, its top im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cial Chris­tian Kruger said: “We can’t turn our backs on the Venezue­lan peo­ple at their time of great­est need.”

This made me think about the sit­u­a­tion in South Africa and how we have come to char­ac­terise im­mi­grants, fel­low Africans, from poverty-stricken and war-torn coun­tries. Colom­bia is not a rich coun­try; it has its fair share of chal­lenges, but it has come to view the in­ward mi­gra­tion from Venezuela dif­fer­ently and with no­table re­spect.

The story of Venezuela is not dif­fer­ent from Zim­babwe, a coun­try that was once the bread bas­ket of Africa but is to­day re­duced to a bas­ket case by its lead­ers. Many Zim­bab­weans are get­ting poorer by the day, and those that have some means to leave the coun­try have done so, all in search of a bet­ter life for them­selves and their fam­i­lies. Oth­ers have left their jobs as pub­lic ser­vants, and teach­ers and now work­ing as car guards in South Africa and other coun­tries.

It is not only Zim­bab­weans that have fled their coun­try to the south­ern tip of Africa. Fel­low Africans from Mozam­bique, Malawi, Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, Ethiopia, So­ma­lia, Nige­ria and many other states had to leave their homes, run­ning away from poverty and wars.

Each year we read of the num­ber of Africans who die as they try to reach Europe. I be­lieve that this is not an easy de­ci­sion to make, hav­ing to risk your own life and flee your na­tive land out of pain and de­spair.

I am a South African, and not once have I con­tem­plated leav­ing the coun­try to set­tle some­where away from my fam­ily, my peo­ple. The de­ci­sion of many Africans who leave their coun­tries of birth to be in South Africa must have been dif­fi­cult, for they are leav­ing their fam­i­lies, cul­ture and tra­di­tion. Most of them will not have an op­por­tu­nity to at­tend to many fam­ily rit­u­als and buri­als – the sac­ri­fice they pay to earn some­thing to send back home and for them­selves.

Of course, there are times as well when as gov­ern­ment we must draw a bound­ary in the cat­e­gory of im­mi­grants al­lowed into the coun­try, as ci­ti­zens can be made to feel dis­en­fran­chised in their own home town. None­the­less, be­fore we char­ac­terise peo­ple as crim­i­nals or job thieves, let’s take a mo­ment and think of the rea­sons that led fel­low Africans to leave their coun­tries of birth. I sug­gest that we do not char­ac­terise “some” African peo­ple who come to South Africa as crim­i­nals, for we do not know that for sure.

Hith­erto, I don’t be­lieve that peo­ple should stay in war-torn coun­tries to die of hunger or to be slaugh­tered like an­i­mals. Un­doubt­edly, there are crim­i­nal el­e­ments, but a num­ber of Africans mi­grate to South Africa in search of a bet­ter life. They are in this coun­try to earn some in­come to send back to the fam­i­lies they left be­hind – fam­i­lies that they might not get to see or at­tend their funer­als.

There­fore, it is my be­lief that as South Africans, a coun­try that ex­pe­ri­ences a rel­a­tively higher pace of devel­op­ment and bet­ter way of life com­pared with many other African coun­tries, we have a big­ger re­spon­si­bil­ity to as­sist our fel­low ci­ti­zens of the con­ti­nent.

Most of them will not have an op­por­tu­nity to at­tend many fam­ily rit­u­als

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.