Pretoria - Not all hope is lost for people who fear what they don’t understand and hate what they fear.
In the past two months mobs have attacked foreign-owned businesses on the streets of at least three cities across the province and country.
This has caused outrage across Africa and there have even been retaliatory attacks.
The South African government, under pressure to protect her large international migrant community, quickly defused the attacks.
Such attacks are not new. For more than two decades, this type of crime has bedevilled the country. There is growing frustration that so little has been done to stop it.
The Freedom Park and Tpace have intervened and signed a memorandum of understanding to deploy “cultural diplomacy”.
The main purpose of this five-year agreement is to stimulate tourism, entrepreneurship in trade, agriculture and creative industry through heritage and culture by involving as many communities as possible in Africa.
Part of the understanding includes hosting a three-day event next month on indigenous knowledge system experiences of food, language, fashion, research, trade and exhibitions from across the continent.
According to the two parties the event will not only delight, but educate and inform visitors on what wondrous unbridled potential Africa possesses and have access through heritage and culture.
Chief executive of Freedom Park Jane Mufamadi said to combat anti-immigrant hate crime, people needed to understand its drivers.
These series of activities will further strengthen the understanding between various countries in Africa.
“We are not saying that cultural diplomacy will completely combat xenophobic attacks, but more often than not people hate what they fear and don't understand. This event will help in bridging the gaps and assist in showing the similarities and differences of Africa,” she said.
While diplomats do their work to strengthen bilateral relations between countries, the agreement ensured the sustenance of cultural diplomacy to bring people together, she said.
Mufamadi stressed the need to build people-to-people relations, with a view to strengthening the understanding between the people and stemming the tide of xenophobia.
Director of Tpace Fay Shao said the process of building national identity, here and elsewhere in Africa, was not started on the day of independence.
It was an integral part of the struggle for progressive change. It is, however, trite but true to say that we continue to witness events and trajectories that point in the opposite direction, away from the long-term promise entailed in the country’s policies.
“We are going to be introducing Africa to Africans. Some people who live in Africa don’t realise how much we have in common. Take for example the language of kiSwahili it is spoken in Tanzania, Burundi, Congo and almost everywhere in Africa. The language contains a bit of Zulu and Venda. These are the facts that bring us together, that people keep on missing,” she said.
Another typical example by Shao was the staple food “pap”. She said although named “Ogi” in Nigeria it was still the same thing.
“We are actually one. Even our differences give us a sense of identity.”