Resurgent attacks - including physical brutality, looting and intimidation - by xenophobic and criminal elements against fellow Africans are appalling and heartbreaking.
The violence pitting blacks against each other is needless, and does all of us collectively as Africans no good.
We call on our African brothers and sisters to show brotherhood and sisterhood consistent with the timeless wisdom of ubuntu. Brother against brother or sister against sister is inimical to ubuntu; the abiding African proverb that umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu (you are because I am).
As Martin Luther King jr said, “There is ultimately no winner when violence becomes the tool of resolving problems. Violence begets violence. We need peace, harmony and progress.
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral that begets the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence, you might murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie nor establish the truth. Through violence you might murder the hater, but you do not murder hate.
“In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can.”
These attacks in South Africa have been happening for a very long time. While routinely described as xenophobic or acts of criminality, what is evident is that they target black Africans. These are deliberate and systematic attacks based on race and country of origin, rather than aliens per se. Black Africans are seen and perceived as the only foreigners and are thus targeted.
The resulting conflict is terrible for our communities, because they foment hate and tensions between people African brothers and sisters. It divides people when our forefathers and liberators fought to unite them on the basis of common humanity for our liberation and freedom.
Kwame Nkrumah famously said: “Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked with the total liberation of Africa.”
The declaration encapsulated the comradeship that defined the struggles for liberation. We should never lose that spirit, even today as many of our citizens across the continent suffer under brutal regimes.
It is sad that the violence we are talking about now is happening in the land of some of Africa’s greatest liberators, such as Oliver Tambo, Albert Luthuli, Winnie Mandela, Robert Sobukwe, Steve Bantu Biko and, of course, Nelson Mandela.
The land from where the great national anthem in many African countries, including Zimbabwe at one time, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, was written by Enoch Sontonga.
South Africans are our brothers and sisters, historically, geographically and culturally. These borders we are fighting and killing each other over were imposed on us. We all know that.
That is why during the anti-colonial struggles across the continent we joined hands and fought in the same trenches. From Ghana to Nigeria, Ethiopia, Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho and Zimbabwe, we fought against apartheid together.
Ask the ANC and former South Africans presidents Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma and Kgalema Motlanthe, they all know this self-evident truth. Ask them, too, they all know who Dumiso Dabengwa was even though he was from Zimbabwe, the land where Luthuli - a great ANC leader and Nobel Laureate - was born.
Zapu fought alongside the ANC, while Zanu was a PAC ally. The people of Africa joined hands to help each other fight colonialism and imperialism. Think of the role Samora Machel and Kenneth Kaunda played to liberate South Africa. Zimbabweans - and I don’t mean Robert Mugabe and his Zanu party - fought alongside South Africans. Nigeria did a lot.
While we acknowledge socio-economic problems faced by South Africans - inequality, unemployment, social service delivery, poverty, illegal immigration, crime, and drug-trafficking - there is no doubt that violence is not the answer. Targeting black Africans won’t help resolve these issues.
Today, you can turn on different television channels or go through social media, it is almost guaranteed you will see images and read about violence among blacks in South Africa. This shouldn’t be happening. We should be seeing images of Africans working together to build South Africa into a greater country and build Africa itself.
Yet what we have seen from time to time are scenes of violence, looting and occasionally killings, brother upon brother, sister upon sister. This is not right; it’s wrong and tragic. The sooner we stop fighting each other the better.
Already we have seen businesses destroyed and commerce disrupted as truckers that use South African routes fear for their lives. Threats of retaliation against South African drivers and businesses in other parts of the continent demonstrate that this is a vicious cycle in which there is no winner.
* Chamisa is the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwe’s opposition political party
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.