Some of the comments we are getting concerning the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa read more like works of fiction than fact. Others have been plainly sick and sadistic.
One daily newspaper had this caption below a picture of the main opposition MDC-T leader: “THE REAL CULPRIT . . . Morgan Tsvangirai”, piling all the blame on one individual. United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton this week rightly reminded this particular writer on another issue where he had strayed from facts: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.”
You won’t make any progress if you keep going back to the same subject — that of, for instance, opposition-bashing for whatever befalls the country. Like Chief Charumbira blaming former Vice-President Joice Mujuru for the spreading drought whereas several neighbouring countries have been similarly affected. Such demarcation between goodies and baddies is only found in fiction. A host of factors such as El Nino and climate change cause drought — not Mujuru. If Mujuru were as powerful as that, she would have instantly dealt with her nemesis First Lady Grace Mugabe. The First Lady would be (safe to say) political, not real, history by now.
We need to bring in empirical evidence about the whole phenomenon of migration, and discard wild, baseless emotiveness informed by political bias and narrowness. Without writing a thesis on migration, some salient points need to be raised because the whole issue has been clouded by ignorance, emotion and plain lies.
German-English geographer/cartographer Ernst Georg Ravenstein (1834-1913) made seminal findings on immigration after long and detailed research.
To cite some of what Ravenstein came to define as “laws of migration”, the majority of migrants (1) move a short distance; and (2) urban residents are less migratory than inhabitants of rural areas. Contrast this with President Robert Mugabe’s remarks this week after the Sadc summit: “For our province of Matabeleland South, the men there and boys, if you have not been to South Africa, you wouldn’t have been to a place of good life and it doesn’t matter what you do there . . .”
To state boldly that males in Matabeleland South for the mere sake or fun of it migrate to South Africa and that it is somehow in their DNA to be so aimless and directionless is baseless and disrespectful, to say the least. That Matabeleland South province is nearest to South Africa proves point 1 above that migrants tend to move a short distance; and point 2 about rural people being more migratory than urban residents is proved by the fact that Matabeleland South is largely rural. It is unbecoming of a Head of State to make such sweeping, disparaging remarks. We are not going to return him the compliment.
Then one Nathan Manheru, as if no cue, went ballistic: “And it’s not just those few Ndebeles in the Diaspora who have a strange outlook. Shonas, too, are incorrigible failures anywhere anytime, in Zimbabwe or elsewhere . . . They have come home. They have, yes, acknowledged home, and that is key.” That is dangerous disdain.
Manheru needs to venture outside his comfort zone to meet new people and learn about new things. To eliminate preconceived notions and judgment, you need to see the world through other people’s eyes. This doesn’t require you to believe what they believe or condone their behaviour, it simply means you quit passing judgment long enough to truly understand what makes them tick.
According to Ravenstein, there are push and pull factors driving migration. Push and pull factors can be economic, political, cultural, and environmentally based.
Push factors are conditions that can drive people to leave their homes, they are forceful, and relate to the country from which a person migrates. A few example of push factors are: not enough jobs in your country; few opportunities; “primitive” conditions; famine/drought; political fear/persecution; poor medical care; loss of wealth; and natural disasters. Sadly, present-day Zimbabwe has accumulated more than its fair share of push factors. Look at company closures, job losses, the high percentage of unemployed graduates, man-made famine, political violence and disappearance (remembering Itai Dzamara), collapsed health system and the total loss of life savings and investments following the decimation of the Zimdollar. That’s what has pushed people out of Zimbabwe, not Tsvangirai or Mujuru. Instead, former Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono did a good job of that. His attainment of world record 231 000 000% inflation around 2007-2008 corresponded with illegal entry into South Africa reaching the peak.
Pull factors are exactly the opposite of push factors; they are factors that attract people to a certain location. Examples of push factors are job opportunities; better living conditions; political freedom; enjoyment; education; and better medical care. Jobs, general freedom, a functional health system, and social security grants (which are non-existent in Zimbabwe) is what pulls Zimbabweans to South Africa. No wonder they assume new identities there.
Factor in that the Diasporans are bringing more revenue than diamonds, which are being stolen and smuggled out at will by political bigwigs, then you can really see the shameless, unjustified vilification of Zimbabweans outside the country. They need consular services, not contempt from the likes of Manheru, who made this shockingly gloating remark: “I did not know that a blow of xenophobia, the okapi of xenophobia, the bullet of xenophobia, make nationalists of us, remind us of the red hills of home.”
It’s not about returning Manheru the compliment, but that is cruel, sadistic imagery at its worst. This Manheru —whoever he or she is — might need psychiatric examination before he starts to play out his dark fantasies.
This is as sick a take on xenophobia victims as it can be.