When leadership is conflicted, the people become vulnerable


SO the South Africans from the Zulu side of the rainbow nation were at it again.

When King Goodwill Zwelithini said last month that “foreigners must pack their bags and go home”, he says he didn’t mean for anyone to be beaten or killed.

We can only imagine two scenarios. Firstly, that the king over-assumed the power of his words by expecting foreigners to just pack their bags and leave. Secondly, that perhaps he under-assumed the effect of his words among his people. Both assumptions exhibit a leader who is not in touch with reality and lacks a balanced sense of judgment.

Whatever the case may be, some of his people responded to his calls by causing damage to human life which left Durban painted by blood, brains and bleeding — all thanks to the Zulu king’s “foreigners must go” instruction.

The remedial calls are still not enough to exonerate the Zulu King. Yes, there is blood on his hands, but the responses so far show that the king enjoys unfettered impunity as no serious measures have been taken. Only one Tim Flack of the SA National Defence Union is reported to have filed a charge of hate speech and violation of human rights to the South African Human Rights Commission.

Depending on where one is standing, xenophobic killings and genocide are two sides of the same coin and inciting such killings has attracted the attention of the International Criminal Court before.

It took some days before leaders condemned the horrible acts unfolding in Durban and the world wondered why such gross brutal attacks were followed by deafening silence. African leadership was absent. For once, it looked as if the foreigners in Durban were lonely in their tears, blood and pain.

It appeared that Zulu youth had been granted impunity to stage an ISIL-type of killing of black migrants in front of the world cameras.

Perhaps we are over-assuming the notion of leadership among those we claim to be out leaders or they have just become too conflicted. Perhaps President Jacob Zuma did not condemn the king and his words because he too as a Zulu, is a subject to the king. In traditional African setting, subjects avoid challenging their leaders.

Perhaps Sadc or African Union could have come in handy. But the current AU chairperson and Sadc President Robert Mugabe, also remained silent on his official visit to South Africa.

Perhaps it was a calculated move, but whatever it was, it neglected the killing of his people. Of course, condemning xenophobia would technically be followed by calls on the South African government to put its house in order. That is not an easy route to tour as it would invite unnecessary retributive ire and would be equivalent to condemning oneself for manufacturing migrants to other countries.

In fact, it was inappropriate timing coming as it did at the same time as the cameras had recorded, the AU and Sadc chairperson reportedly saying, “I don’t want to see white faces” during his official visit to South Africa.

One can’t condemn xenophobia while condoning racism. Despite the international media making a meal out of the xenophobia events, the international community stayed on the fringes as their interlocutors in AU and Sadc were conflicted.

By merely being in such a conflicted situation simply meant that the AU, Sadc and Zimbabwe leadership could not exercise its duty of calling for protection of black migrants because it was conflicted.

For Zimbabwe, both the government and the opposition sang from the same hymn book of silence. MDC leader Welshman Ncube and MDC-T’s Morgan Tsvangirai cannot call Zuma to order because Ncube is relative, while Tsvangirai enjoys refuge in South Africa when political flames seek his head in Zimbabwe. MDC Renewal’s Tendai Biti is in the US.

Similarly, the current AU commissioner Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is in the same quagmire being the South African president’s ex-wife and partly a subject to the Zulu king. But she is the only one who made a direct call on “South Africa to do
more in ensuring the safety of foreign nationals”.

However, this was soft line given the lame excuses given by the South Africa government that they lacked resources to deal with xenophobic attacks.

In all this incestuous maze of political relationships, it is Zulu boys, both Zuma and the Zulu king, who have emerged the safest culprits as no one could gather the guts to hold them to account.

For once, the world witnessed how African power favours itself than the protection of its people.

Even as xenophobic attacks spread to other locations, there were manoeuvring to scoured heroism from the spewing blood in the streets of South Africa.

Julius Malema walked the streets of Alexandra preaching the gospel of peace. Across the Limpopo, we were told: “South Africans will kick down a statue of a dead white man, but won’t even attempt to slap a live one. Yet they can stone to death a black man simply because he’s a foreigner.”

It is not violence that is bad here, but the target.