by TINTSWALO BALOYI
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – XENOPHOBIC attitude, a scourge in South Africa in recent years, has reared its ugly head again following the election of a new mayor for the city of Johannesburg, the country’s economic and cultural hub.
No sooner had Jolidee Matongo been elected as the new head of the city than a campaign went viral on social media, apparently rejecting his ascension as mayor.
Under the WeRejectMayorOfJHB hashtag, detractors raised the issue that Matongo’s father was Zimbabwean.
This came after he revealed his parentage during his acceptance following his election unopposed to succeed Geoff Makhubo, who passed on in July following a battle with the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The mayor’s mother is South African and he was born in Soweto, west of Johannesburg in 1975.
Detractors took to social media to resurrect the long running “South Africa for South Africans” mantra that disapproves the appointment of so-called foreign nationals to senior positions especially in the formal sector.
It feeds on widely-held views by uncompromising sections of South African society that accuse foreigners of “stealing” jobs and resources from locals.
Such sentiment is blamed for the deadly violence South Africa has previously experienced when some militant locals have perpetrated attacks against foreign-owned businesses and individuals.
Property has been damaged in the anarchy with massive and barbaric looting sprees.
Political leaders, including the then-mayor, Herman Mashaba (then Democratic Alliance), have been accused of rhetoric that promotes such attacks but in the wake of the attacks against Matongo, they have called their fellow nationals to order.
Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), also countered the attacks #WeRejectMayorOfJHB on social media.
His was under the #NoToXenophobia banner.
Malema disclosed Matongo and he were together in the Youth League of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), hence he insisted he would not be canvassed against his former colleague that his father was Zimbabwean.
He branded the xenophobic sentiments as “nonsense.”
“Politically we disagree, but he (Matongo) remains a black brother of mine,” Malema stated.
EFF is advocating for an Africa without borders.
Mmusi Maimane, former leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) also expressed his opposition to xenophobia.
“You can engage people on their ideas, on their track record of delivery as leaders, on their political choices,” Maimane stated.
“But xenophobia, that’s not acceptable. Not today or any other day,” the opposition leader added.
South Africa suffered its most severe eruption of anti-migrants violence in 2008.
More than 60 people, including locals, were killed and several hundred injured during the attacks while more than 300 000 others were displaced.
Sporadic attacks have recurred in later years but at a lower scale.
On the eve of Africa Day (May 25) this year, the administration of President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged to promote orderly and legal migration as well as good relations between South Africans and other nationals.
Government has established Inter-Ministerial Committees (IMCs) to address issues relating to violence and discrimination against foreign nationals.
The IMCs focus on migration, population policy and social cohesion.
– CAJ News