KAMPALA – All countries except South Africa is rubber-stamped on the back of my 1988 passport [if holding a passport in the ‘80s doesn’t put me in the ‘old money’ conversation, I don’t know what will].
Back to the lecture at hand, the travel eschewal of South Africa was Africa’s way of placing pressure on the apartheid regime by not acknowledging it as a legitimate administration; and a show of solidarity with the oppressed South Africans.
This support was additionally parceled out to the mutinying African National Congress [ANC], and Pan Africanist Congress [PAC] by the Ugandan government at the expense of its tax payers, who bankrolled the freedom fighters’ bureaus in Kampala.
More help was passed on to the fleeing South Africans in the form of education and relocation programs. This created a homely ambience that persuaded many of the sojourners to sire children, and start families; with a multitude choosing to stay in Uganda, and other parts of Africa to this day.
Thus was the premium treatment accorded the distressed South Africans; at the risk of reprisal from the apartheid regime and its sympathisers on Uganda, and many other African governments.
Governments that had their own challenges to deal with but put South Africa first.
Thirty years later, before the paint of apartheid fully dries out, South Africa reciprocates by giving its old backers the middle finger; blaming her economic problems on them, even killing them.
Steadily hunting them down whenever she [South Africa] has a ‘bad hair day’; scoffing at the bond they shared — Africanness [South Africa doesn’t look at itself as being part of Africa].
To confirm this, Jacob Zuma as president once said: ‘We can’t think like Africans in Africa generally. We are in Johannesburg…’
A mindset sadly shared by many natives, well forgetting they too were once sojourners in those foreign lands.
According to official estimates, it’s reported that South Africa is home to 2.9 million immigrants [this number is thought to be an underestimate]. As of the 2011 census, three-quarters of these immigrants are from the African continent. It’s this group that has pejoratively been christened amakwerekwere by the locals.
Ugandans form a sizeable portion of the non-native population in South Africa, and are at the core of the diaspora population that has been most affected by the more than 40 attacks on immigrants, in eight of the last 13 years [African Centre for Migration and Society].
These attacks have been enforced by self-appointed groups of natives — vigilantes. One such squadron — Operation Dudula.
A brainchild of the Soweto parliament under the captaincy of Lux Dlamini, a 35-year-old trained pilot. The Afrophobic brigade rose to prominence in 2021 when it issued a decree forbidding foreign nationals from opening new domestic retail shops in the local settlements known as spazas.
This year, they’re hunting down illegal immigrants! Sensitive operations like these shouldn’t be left in the hands of the general public.
On top of that, they have declared a war on drugs in the townships: a noble cause, the only flaw being, it’s used as a cover to maliciously target innocent locals for which their leader Lux was arrested and released on bail. If natives have been victims, one can only imagine what the amakwerekwere for whom this movement was set up to deal with are going through.
The government has responded mildly with ineffectual reprimand; the unavailing type that has resulted in the death of more than 400 Somalis murdered between early 2002 and mid-2010 [International Migrants and Refugees in Cape Town’s Informal Economy].
These vigilante groups mostly comprise the youth whose major gripe is unemployment. They blame their involuntary idleness on the amakwerekwere who have supposedly taken up the jobs meant for them.
Nothing could be further from the truth because South Africa’s unemployment problem runs deeper than the lack of jobs, rather, it’s affiliated to the lack of skills needed in the economy. There’s a mountainous mismatch between the skills employers are looking for, and what the natives possess.
Statistics South Africa, the country’s national statistical service places the unemployment rate for the fourth quarter of 2021 at 35.3% [7.9 million unemployed]. A rate majorly attributed to the general lack of technical skills; and a poor education system.
Angie Motshekga Basic Education Minister disclosed at a media briefing in Cape Town in March 2010 that the country’s education system was dysfunctional with ‘pupils leaving the foundation phase without basic literacy and numeracy skills’.
No wonder 4.4 million adults in South Africa can’t read or write; and of that number, Black Africans make up 14% [Fact Sheet, Adult illiteracy in South Africa, Mamphoku Khuluvhe].
This lack of lettered sophistication has evoked bewailment among employers who have found fault with the quality of job seekers availed to them.
In 2012, for instance: 800,000 vacancies were available to be filled by 600,000 graduates [The Economist, 2012] but employers couldn’t marry what the graduates had to offer with what they were looking for, revealing a rather complicated scenario — structural unemployment.
This mismatch has got nothing to do with the immigrants, who have no control over the rise in number of young people not in school, employment or training. Neither has it got anything to do with funding — the government spends 6.8% of its GDP on education.
A study, Labour market trends in South Africa 2009–2019 by Derek Yu and Charles Adams revealed that 39% of the unemployed have never worked before. This is accredited to the lack of an education and training to prepare them for the labour market.
In the past, it was proposed that the said unemployment figures were exaggerated. A resemblant unemployment concern was brought to the attention of Nelson Mandela and his cabinet in a report by the International Labour Organisation — ILO/96/31 presented by economist Gary Standing.
He [Gary Standing] acknowledged that even if the unemployment rate was serious then, it was overstated because many were ‘nominally employed’ coming out of apartheid.
The report went on to state that the unemployment rate wasn’t 33% or 46% as other agencies cited; rather, 20% was closer to reality.
In choosing to base the rationale of their economic strife on emotions rather than sound reasoning or information; the native South African has failed to come to the realisation that post-apartheid South Africa’s problems for the most part stem from bad leadership.
Jacob Zuma and his endless shenanigans, Cyril Ramaphosa’s questionable patriotism: President Ramaphosa sat on the board of Lonmin plc, a board that retaliated to demands of a pay raise of its workers by killing thirty-four of them, injuring many in the infamous Marikana massacres.
He [Ramaphosa] later bid R19.5 million [over $1.3 million] for a buffalo and it’s calf; displaying a character that brought his patriotism to question.
Prompting remarks questioning his persona like: ‘What did Nelson Mandela see in you that we can’t see?’ from his long-time nemesis Julius Malema.
This crop of avaricious leaders has continually failed the natives who misguide their frustration, and direct it to the immigrants.
Unsurprisingly, it’s interesting that of the ten most valuable companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange [JSE] with a South African connection, only one [Standard Bank], has got a native sitting at the helm, with another [MTN] overseen by a Zimbabwean; and the remaining eight companies headed by white South Africans.
This layout explains what is already known to the average South African — the economy is under the control of white South Africans.
They [white] South Africans own 80% of the land; bearing witness to South Africa having the highest income inequality in the world.
The writing is on the wall for all to see, but without the attainment of a proper education and knowledge, it’s hard for the natives to be enlightened enough to ‘connect the dots’.
Now, more than ever, Mandela’s counsel: ‘No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated,’ resonates with his countrymen.
LinkedIn: Mark Kidamba