The democratic order of our beloved republic is in a critical state.

Warning signs are there for everyone to see, except the deceitful kleptomaniacs who hold the levers of power. Everywhere you look, there are red flags. The state is stuck in the mud of corruption and mismanagement which has resulted in failure to reverse the cataclysmic degeneration in basic services.

Our security machinery, which is either infiltrated by criminal and untrustworthy individuals or is populated by clueless beings, has proven to be impotent in the face of growing crime and political violence. Populist demagogues are gaining ground and fueling a new wave of xenophobic violence. The state security cluster couldn’t be bothered because there are factional activities they are seized with.

We are not alarmists when we say xenophobia (Afrophobia) is rearing its ugly head again in our country. At the rate sporadic attacks are taking place, it is only a matter of time before another fierce episode, which could be worse than what we saw in 2008, occurs.

Some of us still have the 2008 image of Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave slumped on his hands and knees, his singed body still engulfed in flames, etched in our memory.

The image shocked the world and became the horrifying representation of xenophobic violence that gripped South Africa, compelling thousands of non-nationals to flee the country and leaving 62 dead… 21were South Africans.

In 2015, South Africa’s animosity toward African immigrants was once again disseminated globally when photographer James Oatway took pictures of the brutal attack of Emmanuel Sithole in Alexandra, north of Jozi.

Emmanuel was knifed to death by a gang of hoodlums whose problem with him was that he was of a different nationality.

A perfect storm for an outbreak is brewing, what with some political parties openly spewing venomous statements aimed at migrants of African descent. We have seen vigilante groupings raid shops owned and operated by fellow Africans from north of our country.

Calls made by the likes of Patriotic Alliance, ActionSA and a number of other political parties and so-called community activists to forcibly evict migrants from their places of abode, and conducting a head count of the number of foreign nationals employed in the hospitality industry, is extremely unsettling.

It is even more distressing when there is no reprimand or punishment for the xenophobes pouring forth all kinds of inflammatory vitriol.

Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, sums it all up correctly when she says: “Blaming foreign nationals for the country’s unemployment problem will only fan the xenophobic flames against this vulnerable group in the country because they are always used as scapegoats for various problems facing the country.”

An open letter by Defend Our Democracy Campaign, which was endorsed by civil society organisations accurately points out: “There is a slippery slope toward accepting and normalising vigilantism. What this means is that today, targeting migrants becomes ‘acceptable’, but tomorrow – when we are done with migrants – will it be a particular ethnic, tribal, racial, linguistic, religious, class or other group who we then blame and attack? The South African Police Service should uphold the law in a democratic South Africa and act against those involved in vigilante activities.”

A toxic concoction of high unemployment rate, debilitating poverty, deprivation, endemic corruption, absence of accountability and fractured trust, has put our African brothers and sisters in harm’s way and the powers that be are too blind to see and too deaf to listen to any warnings. Any leader with a bit of common sense can tell that the utterings and actions of the xenophobes, smacks of blatant contempt for the rights of immigrants, the rule of law and the Constitution. There is an urgent need for an swift intervention by government and leaders from all sectors of society.

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