JOHANNESBURG – We murder and rape our women and children. That is South Africa.
If you are from elsewhere in Africa and you work in this country, we’ll murder you, we’ll burn your place of business and your home. That is South Africa. It has felt like the worst week ever in South Africa. But there have been other weeks like this.
When a baby was raped and murdered, her entrails ripped from her tiny body it was on the front page of The Star. That was supposed to be the tipping point. There were protests, people wrote letters and phoned radio stations. Then we continued to murder, rape and burn.
When I was still a student reporter at the Mail and Guardian in 1997 I wrote about the rape and murder of a young girl in Thokoza. The late Winnie Mandela got involved in supporting the family, the community rallied round them. Winnie Mandela has departed, but young girls - and boys - are still being raped and still being murdered.
A couple of years ago, violence flared up in Alexandra, as nationals from other African countries were attacked - their businesses burned, their homes torched. Around that time I went to a rugby match at Ellis Park. Everyone was asked to observe minute’s silence. Messages were flashed across the big screens reading: ‘Xenophobia is wrong,’ or words to that effect. Words, words, words. No action, other than more violence.
This week, we saw other nations in Africa act. From a sporting perspective, Zambia’s decision to cancel its football friendly against South Africa is hugely significant. It immediately dished up memories of the international sports boycott which was a critical element in the fight against apartheid.
That the boycott was by a country that played so huge a role in the liberation of South African should not be lost on anyone. The African National Congress’ headquarters, when it was banned by the apartheid government, was in Lusaka. Oliver Tambo had an office there. Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s second democratically elected president, worked there for a long time, very closely alongside Tambo.