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Xenophobia: South Africa's Aha moment!

27 Sep 2019 at 06:36hrs | Views
I love radio!

I have done so since I could listen to my mum's voice while I was in her stomach.

Not the loud music. Neither the childishly gurrolous disc jockeys on some frequencies. I am so chuffed by talk radio, most especially because some discussions, i live them and I can relate. In some I carry my hope and I am allowed to dream.

So here I was on some Pretoria trip in my own little corner in a train, Clement Manyathela of 702 brought in South Africa's Minister of Small Businesses Development, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.

I adore Clement's work, not because he sports a full black beard, he is a good broadcaster of note. He gets me thinking.

The minister hinted South Africa is in the early stages of promulgating a law in Parliament that restricts foreign nationals to venture into some sectors of the economy.

This comes hard on the heels of xenophobic attacks on foreigners in the country. A number of immigrant- owned shops in various business centres were vandalised and looted.

Additionally, in some black high-density neighborhoods, foreigners had to run for dear life, helter-skelter seeking protection at police stations leaving belongings that in some instances got vandalised and burned on the streets especially in Kathlehong.

Xenophobia has become an albatross hanging on the South African body politic that had unintended regional consequences. Each civil servant is at pains to deny it's existence.

Messages that South Africans are not xenophobic have been echoed everyhwere. Special envoys were send across the continent to seek forgiveness and spruce up the image of the nation state.

And now the house of Parliament is mulling to enact a law to deal with foreigners in business . It is an Aha! moment for Mzansi. Finally a solutio that spills no blood has been found.  An Archimedes moment when everyone is supposed to shout Eureka!...Eureka!

This is long overdue. It is the only logical way to deal with an influx of outsiders than killing, burning and maiming. Apparently, foreigners have had a heavy cross to carry. Coming from broken countries with strife, famine and political intolerance. Xenophobic attacks seemed they have jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the fire shoulderering all the blame of everything that is wrong and every vice in the nation.

Foreigners have been said to take a lion's share of available opportunities. They take jobs, they ' steal' women. This has been a mantra of the common man on the streets.

Previously, government has never drawn clear lines in the sand to guide anyone willing to do business in South Africa.

Countries like Zimbabwe, Tanzania , Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia et al have had laws enacted by Parliament barring outsiders to engage in key sectors of the economy such as the retail and pharmaceutical industries.

Of late, Ntshavheni said government realised foreigners come in with huge bags of capital and engage in all sorts of start up businesses. In the process,  locals are at a disadvantage because in most instances, they have little money to compete. Furthermore, foreign shops employ outsiders ballooning unemployment rate to unprecedented levels. Worse still, she said the revenue generated in such emterprises is not banked. It is spirited out back to  home countries draining dry the cash flow in the monetary system.

The  act of Parliament at a national level seeks to realign business operations with best international procedures on the continent cascading down to local government level, the minister said.

Local administrations are expected to accommodate the statute into various by- laws to create a conducive business environment for locals.

Pakistan and Bangladesh nationals are also within the country's radar as there has been a significant rise of their numbers landing on Mzansi shores.

Foreigners, especially Somalis have taken the brunt for running small retail businesses in black townships. This is projected to stop and locals are exhorted to come to the table to share the cake by venturing into small business start ups.

The move is also projected to open up more locally owned business opportunities as well as protect those already in.

Big retail giants such as Pick and Pay, Shoprite and Checkers are also to be stopped in their tracks for incrementally taking over township economies. Lately, smaller shops and containers have been franchised penetrating the market in the process elbowing out locally owned start ups with little capital.

These big retail players are also to be restricted to buying products from designated local manufacturers as a way of boosting employment and sales revenue for local businesses.

A data base of registered operators such as spazzas, general dealers is envisaged to come into play giving government a window of opportunity to manage issues of  tax accountability.

However the proposal is surely not a panacea to all the problems bedeviling Mzansi.

Undoubtedly though, it will mark a new trajectory where South Africa will start walking away from an era infested with denialism as the government has been lax in promoting local interests. A period of corruption in which foreigners have been treated with kid gloves at the expense of locals. It is a sad chapter in which government exhibited monumental political ineptitude that saw no respect for the suffering of the poor working class South African.

The government however is not denying an enriching osmosis between countries but the recent wave of attacks has jolted the leadership into digging up the idea from the bottom drawer and seek to thrash out a coherent business policy.

Foreigners, admittedly have hampered locals to make business breakthroughs.

With that said , it could be bad news for foreign compatriots who have been making a killing financially in Mzansi. Nigerians have been threatening to retaliate attacks but for Mzansi, the gloves are off. The legistlation would  be a telling piece of evidence this is a fight to the finish. It is time to go home, grow beans and maize in broken countries of origin and sod off from Mzansi life.

Josiah Mucharowana is a Zimbabwean-trained journalist living in Pretoria. Feedback +27 84 587 4121 or

Source - Josiah Mucharowana
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