The centre cannot hold

06 September 2019 | Columns

In his poem titled ‘The Second Coming’, William Butler Yeats wrote: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” It was with a sense of outrage and rightful anger that the rest of Africa watched the return of xenophobic attacks in South Africa to the public eye. This violence, which appears to be simmering at all times, before boiling over in death, looting and destruction, indeed threatens to return South Africa to the pariah status it occupied globally while the hated apartheid regime was in power. Amid all the reasoning of both the learned and laymen, xenophobia or African self-hate, as some have called it, must be condemned with the strongest possible voice. It is unacceptable that Africans are being victimised and slaughtered anywhere, and at any time. Yet, in the midst of arguments that say foreigners in South Africa are involved in crime or are ‘stealing’ jobs, and Gucci-wearing populist politicians trying to direct the volcano-like anger towards ‘white monopoly capital’ not many have begun to link the xenophobic cycles to politics and broken promises. In 1994, the African National Congress (ANC), led by an almost mythical Nelson Mandela, assumed the reins of power in the neighbouring country. Besides the ideological flip-flopping from communism and socialism to unfettered capitalism, the top comrades of the ANC set about enriching themselves. But more than this, even after tenders were rigged and dished out to cadres, projects were simply never delivered or were used as opportunities to milk millions or billions from taxpayers. Exacerbated by downright incompetence and the wholesale looting that took place under the now infamous ‘state capture’ grouping, poor South Africans were cast aside. Xenophobia is in fact misdirected anger that should be reserved for those in power, who continue to put party before country and greed before the needs of ordinary South Africans. And now the centre is crumbling to dust.

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