Descent into Xenophobic Violence

Letter published in Cape Times, 2008.

As a proud South African, I am dismayed by how our Rainbow Nation has descended into a state of xenophobic violence. It has certainly put a black mark against our name.

I see this sad turn of events to be symptomatic of poor government performance in a number of areas, and the role of some of our leaders in promoting racial and cultural categorization.

Our foreign policy needs to be more decisive. We need strong countries as our neighbors, and we need to take assertive action to achieve this, otherwise their problems spill over into our country.

Our government needs to improve its ability to uplift its citizens. After a decade and a half of waiting for economic opportunity, they’re getting tired of waiting.

It actually takes substantial ability for an organization to spend money on social development and have an impact. We need to start judging the performance of our government departments by how well they’ve fulfilled their mandate and made a difference to our society – and not by how busy they’ve been or whether they’ve met their employment quotas.

South Africans also need to start using their initiative to start businesses and fend for themselves. Our government simply does not have the resources or ability to fulfill many of the promises it has made. Instead we need to follow the example of other Africans living in our country – people who know that they can’t wait for the government to provide for them.

We also need to move beyond the paradigm of racial categorization cultivated by an era of Apartheid. If we’d really transcended this, we would be embracing all the people living in our country as South Africans.  Let us rather focus our efforts on helping the poor in our country, whatever colour, race or nationality they might be.

I must say I was also shocked to hear some government officials blaming the violence on a third force linked to the former apartheid government.  This is just ridiculous. If these officials wish to go down this route, I suggest they visit Zimbabwe and get Mugabe to teach them how to be more eloquent.

These events provide a valuable opportunity for us reflect on the future we want for our country.

Marcus Coetzee is a business strategist who helps leaders to think clearly about the future. To find out more about how he can help you, call 0828799131 or visit Marcus

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