A Post-Africanist view on South African Xenophobia

E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.

Truth is the greatest antidote to error. The pain of truth is far more desirable than the comfort of lies and deception. It is better to build a continent or nations on a foundation of truth than try to build a people on false assumptions. For many years, Africans have been trying to live under a false conjecture that they are a united people. The pressure to try and appear to be united manifests itself in the senseless penchant for blood. What we see in South Africa today is terrible. But it is not new. Africans all over the continent have been butchering each other like senseless beasts. We must not pretend like South Africa is the only problem. The very foreigners being butchered by South Africans have been butchering one another in the countries they come from: Somalia, Congo, Rwanda, and Eritrea to mention a few. An answer to the problem of Xenophobia in Africa requires some honest soul-searching. It must demand some analysis, some deep questions. We must earnestly abandon, the false philosophies of a “united” people and adopt a worldview that is more attuned to African realities.

Munshya wa Munshya
Munshya wa Munshya

Just a few months ago, the people of South Sudan, fresh from independence, started to slaughter each other. The Angolan government has taken an anti-Congo stance that is so ridiculous that it has led the Ba Kongo people into a senseless xenophobic hatred between those that belong to Angola and those that belong to the Congo-Kinshasa. In the 1990s, Katanga governor Kyungu wa Kumwanza introduced the kuba telemusha doctrine in which the Luba-Kasai were ordered deported from Katanga so that they could return to their native Kasai region. The Bemba-speaking peoples of Katanga were among the people groups that participated in this ethnic cleansing. To date, Wa Kumwanza has not answered for his crimes. In Cote D’Ivoire, there is always a tension between northerners and southerners and between those that believe are genuine Ivorians against those believed to be of foreign origin. We have no space here to mention the struggles of Rwanda and Burundi. As for Somalia, the country remains ungovernable today due to the various warlords that have each claimed a chunk of the capital and the territory. In fact, someone has observed the more ethnically homogenous an African society is, the more likely it is to face serious political instability of murderous proportions. In Central African Republic, the Africans are killing each other, tribe against tribe, religions against religion, and vice-versa.

Cecil Rhodes is the patron saint of Pan-Africanism
Cecil Rhodes is the patron saint of Pan-Africanism

To address the issue of all this xenophobia, Africans must adopt new ways of thinking. The philosophical underpinnings and aspirations of the African continent must begin shifting. Africans must give up the burden of trying to be united. They must admit that they are diverse and different. The aspiration of being “one and united” people has created such a psychological obstruction for the African mind. From the time Cecil Rhodes proclaimed a united Africa from Cape to Cairo, Africans have not given up on this Rhodesian dream. The African needs some truth. And acknowledging that we are not “one” is the first step to healing. We are different. We could have the same colour of skin, and live on the same geographical mass called “Africa”, but we must acknowledge that we are a divided and diverse peoples. This acknowledgement has got to be the new foundation upon which we could build new stories and narratives that would help rather than distract Africa. The more we tell each other that we are “one” people, the more conflicts we have. Let us give up this lofty dream that is so unrealistic. Let us accept and embrace our differences no matter where those differences come from. Diversity and difference is, to some extent, socially constructed. As such, it does not matter how we classify ourselves, once we acknowledge these classes it could be the beginning point for healing.

President Zuma
President Zuma

After we acknowledge how different we are from each other, we must then, ask ourselves, how should I treat the person who is different from me? Should I kill another simply because they are different from me? Does “difference” provide me with a reason to kill another? There is power in “difference”, regardless of how we have come to conceptualize that difference. But the acknowledgement of difference must submit to higher values. And these values have more to do with how I handle the person that has been labeled or the person I have labeled as different. We need a philosophy of hospitality: an attitude to the strangers.

We need to realise that people do not need to become like “us” in order for them to escape our killing. The problem in South Africa is not the “us” problem, it is the issue to do with how different South Africans should treat the many different Africans, and how the many different Africans should treat the South Africans. Should they kill the other simple because she is the “other”? Africans need now embrace Post-Africanism. In Post-Africanism, we are not afraid to embrace difference.

As a post-Africanist, I am delivered from the burden of trying to push unity upon a continent that has never and would never be united. Instead, post-Africanism reaffirms the truth from Jesus Christ: “do unto others what you would love them do unto you”. Post-Africanism acknowledges the diversity of the African peoples. It sees this diversity as a strength not a weakness. It sees tribes, nationalities, and shades of blackness as a true strength of the African peoples. Post-Africanism then challenges these different peoples, to treat each other with utmost respect and love for the other. Doing so is truly liberating. You are no longer trying to force unity. You are no longer trying to disingenuously claim “oneness” with a people that are different from you. Instead, post-Africanism takes you towards hospitality. It makes you treat a Somali, a Bemba, a Xhosa, a Barotse, a Biafran, a Shangaan, a Kasai, just like you would want to be treated. It is this post-African hospitality that might just help and save Africans from butchering each other to extinction. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


  1. Ba Munshya, the biggest problem that we have is not tribe, colour, nation of original, or relegion. Biggest problem is economical. If every body had ‘enough’ where they are, the will be no movement to areas where they are resented. Each one will be ‘happy’ where they are and will not worry about who is around them as long as they are safe. The root cause of many of the conflict we have witness in africa are more to do with the share of resources than any other reasons. So africa should work very hard to develop their land and most of these conflicts will end in many regions. We also need Jesus as the centre of our lifes for us to have that unit and peace in africa.

  2. whereas i have no problem with the post-africanist idea, i am left wondering whether the issue that has resulted in the conflict we are now seeing is a purely social one rather than economic in nature

  3. Pastor Elias, very brilliant analysis, and very good examples. All I can say it is a big problem that will be solved the presence of the prince of peace. We hate each other and call ourselves names.

  4. Well written however you seem to be contradicting yourself. In your article it is clear that you are against Pan Africanism and African Unity but at the same time you are talking about promoting co-existence amid diversity. Isn’t that the very spirit that Pan Africanism try to promote?

    1. I noticed the same. “doing unto others what you would like them do unto you” is actually a pro Pan africanism concept. Looks like your post africanism ideology is only a variation of what you’re arguing against

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