Diverse audiences may accuse former president Thabo Mbeki of many things, yet this one of xenophobia denialist propagated by Adebajo has no corroborating evidence, says the writer. File picture: Oupa Mokoena
Clyde NS Ramalaine disagrees with Adekeye Adebajo on his critique of Thabo Mbeki as political leader and SA on the subject of xenophobic denialism. 

The Sunday Independent of April 30 carried an opinion piece from Adekeye Adebajo entitled: “Xenophobia denialism flies in face of evidence”. He dovetails this in posing a question: “Will this stance harm Thabo Mbeki’s credentials and damage his legacy?”

Let me then upfront confirm I disagree with Adebajo on his critique of Mbeki as political leader and SA on the subject of xenophobic denialism. My disagreement is less in defence of Mbeki, than that I simply am not prepared to enter that arena with its conflated and congested crowd of crusaders, analysts, intellectuals, friends both informed and uninformed.

I take my line from this one fact: that Mbeki is demystified and lives among us in daily opinions. He like all of us contests for space to be heard and warrants no special “thinkers” that must defend him.

The premise for my disagreement with Adebajo is his choice decision not to assist our understanding of the construct in its ontology and experiential reality when he rushes to conclude on it with certainty. His certainty purports support in claims of a nuanced role of political leadership and deaths of fellow Africans within the confines of a geographic SA .

Is it therefore deliberate on his part not to engage the construct - since he may not be able to draw the same conclusions if he moves from the original premise of the construct?

His conflation of commentary on the APRM engagements attempts to cast Mbeki as arrogant for disagreeing with others, when he sees no arrogance on the part of others. Arrogance cannot be the suitable adjective for Mbeki when he expresses a desire to meet with the diplomatic corps and asserts: “Maybe they could teach me something I don’t know about my own people”.

Adebajo as an intellectual appears blindsided by an incessant need to invoke an untested claim of xenophobia. It is incumbent upon intellectuals to clarify constructs regardless of how they may be used in public settings with a sense of certainty. Critical thinking warrants less a regurgitating of convoluted constructs than an honest attempt at analysis of the very constructs so easily bandied about in public discourse.

What we deduce is that Adebajo furthermore finds currency in the idea that South Africans owe the rest of Africa a debt that inadvertently affords the diaspora an exonerated right never to be questioned as to their political and economic motives when they analyse as he does.

Perhaps more culpable of Adebajo and some in the diaspora’s thinking is a mind that seeks to emotionally blackmail South Africans on the presence of xenophobia when the evidence for such is simply not there. The historic reality of the usage of the term speaks of a violence meted out to the collective experiences of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis, or of the Roma (Gypsies). We are compelled to ask Adebajo, where are these collective experiences in SA?

From our personal wrestling with this claim we have over time shared our prisms in opinion pieces, to ask what is meant with these and how honest the claims are.

When we do so it is less in a mind of denialism but with full cognisance that we are about the contestation of space and ideas as equals in which we seek to make sense of a crime that has occurred in epochs of a recent history.

The idea of forcing the subject of xenophobia as a narrative for the likes of Adebajo may plausibly rest on three foundations:

The first is to find SA and its people guilty of this atrocity. When you can make this case you can proceed to make an even stronger claim.

Secondly, out of such guilt to extend credence to a debt owed to fellow Africans, ultimately resulting in claims of gross human rights violation.

Thirdly, to give such a claim essence is a claim of complicit political leadership.

We must ask why it is convenient for Adebajo and so many of the diaspora to remain hell-bent in blanket sense of victimhood.

His analysis therefore is not an honest attempt as a scholar to firstly appreciate and unpack the construct of xenophobia.

We come back to this because it’s here where the fundamental error is committed that gave the structure for his argument.

The lethargic and challenging notion of Adebajo’s reasoning is made evident and prominent in the economy that some African intellectuals derive from this created and plausible dishonest narrative.

I dare assert we are too often brow-beaten into what McWhorter defined as victimhood on the part of our fellow Africans, who enjoy a South Africa at all levels devoid of any xenophobia.

It is perhaps time that we ask questions of Adebajo and those who share his prism, as to what his and their contributions are to normalising African countries that have been politically free for almost three score years.

At what stage do these nations and their citizenry, including their intellectuals, own up to what their countries have become in a politically freed setting of independence, where Africans ought to lead on all fronts?

May we ask Adebajo why similar criminal incidents among the poorest of the poor evident in African Americans and Hispanics in the US do not translate to xenophobia: Why is this not perceived as America against Hispanics in total onslaught registering a hate and aggregate dissonance mirrored in xenophobia claims?

Adebajo’s analysis thus is haphazard and for lack of a better word straddles dishonesty, as it lacks basic objectivity.

It appears our fellow Africans have earned the right to live in SA comfortably and benefit as they contribute to society, with a disclaimer of never owning up to their subliminal roles in extending the sophism of xenophobia in which South Africans collectively are read as endorsing of this yet to be unpacked construct of xenophobia.

We will not afford him the safe space to inadvertently fuel hate between Africans that simply does not exist at the hand of crafted intellectualism. Perhaps the notable exceptionalism may very well be on the part of Adebajo and those who agree with him, who want to educate SA, critique SA, instruct SA, engage SA in emotional blackmail and direct SA, but lack the wherewithal to let that same instruction, critique, directing and blackmail count where it matters, namely in Nigeria, his country of birth. I am afraid the case of xenophobia is not yet made in SA, neither can the accusation levelled against Thabo Mbeki or any SA president be made as complicit in makeshift untested claim of denialism.

Diverse audiences may accuse Mbeki of many things, yet this one of xenophobia denialist propagated by Adebajo has no corroborating evidence.

Adebajo failed to make his case for such.

* Bishop Ramalaine is a political commentator. This article appears courtesy of Weekly Xposé, for whom the author is an analyst.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent