Paul Zilungisele Tembe is an associate professor at the Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, China.
Paul Zilungisele Tembe is an associate professor at the Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, China.

Seek truth on racism claims in Guangdong

By Paul Zilungisele Tembe Time of article published Apr 24, 2020

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There is a truism that in war, the first casualty is truth. In a crisis from a health and economic pandemic such as Covid-19, this applies in spades.

Unfortunately, the truth now has to compete with “post-truth”, “post-facts” and cynicism cast on science and experts. As we learnt, however, denying facts and the truth endangers lives and livelihoods.

Perpetuating misinformation compromises relations between people and countries. The post-truth agenda is used by some people and leaders for narrow political purposes that are divisive instead of unifying people to fight a common enemy like the coronavirus.

Colonialism and apartheid have indelibly shaped our razor-sharp sensitivity to incidents, real and perceived, of discrimination such as those witnessed mainly in the province of Guangdong. This populous coastal province with 113 million people is renowned as a pioneering frontier and gateway for China’s opening up and reform process that began in 1978.

Such a populous province, with tens of thousands of foreign nationals, would be susceptible to cultural misunderstanding about legal regulations and health exposure profiles.

It is worrying if some foreigners from high-risk African countries do not wear protective facial masks, or those with confirmed cases do not comply with the anti-epidemic regulations and thus cause panic.

Mandatory testing and quarantining of every citizen, resident and visitor has been met with charges of stigmatisation and unfair discrimination against Africans from shopkeepers, security personnel and landlords.

Are there merits to these charges?

First, since these are extraordinary circumstances requiring extraordinary responses, that may sometimes seem to trample on individuals and groups, the actions by the Guangdong authorities are relatively understandable. They are applying the same stringent measures, perfected in Wuhan, to stop the spread of the second wave of coronavirus infections from both internal transmissions and imported cases.

Estimates released by authorities, as of April 13, related to Covid-19 in this province indicate that Guangdong had 119 confirmed imported cases, 26 cases of foreign nationals, 19 of which are Africans. Given these circumstances, the rigorous measures adopted by authorities are meant to protect rather than punish the collective whole’s health and safety.

They include testing of all high-risk groups, 14-day compulsory quarantine of all in-bound passengers plus requiring 15 000 people to stay home or go to designated places for quarantine.

More than 4600 of these 15000 are foreigners, including African nationals, so China’s efforts to deal decisively with Covid-19 are appreciated by African countries and the AU.

The facts are that China has no history of ever colonising any country; it promotes in its dealing with African countries infrastructure development; has supported African governments with medical resources during this pandemic; and is a country standing ready to assist further Africa in its post-Covid-19 reconstruction and development programmes.

* Tembe is an associate professor at the Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, China.

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

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