The Painting of a Foreigner by Mummy, South Africa

It was February, the first day of my third year at university. I was heading to the bus stop when I saw people singing and protesting on the street. They carried big boards which had written on them, “They must go! We are tired of them!” I was confused. I had no idea what was going on.

The people were carrying an array of weapons. They headed straight to a small shop owned by a foreign man and started to fight. I was shocked because this foreign shop owner didn’t do anything to cause so many people to be angry with him. It broke my heart to see all these hard working foreigner people crying and begging not to be killed.
That evening, I watched the news report on this same incident. They called it xenophobia, which is the strong fear and hate of people from other countries. When I asked friends about it, I was surprised to hear that even the youth of this country support this sinister act. One of my friends said, “Why are they coming here? Our country is full of foreigners. What is wrong with their country and why do they have to leave it?”

Luckily, a Student Representative Council member organized a debate between those who support xenophobia and those who don’t support it at all. I was glad I attended the debate because it opened my eyes to the issue of xenophobia. I also learned a lot about foreigners and their reasons for leaving their countries. Most of all, it created a positive picture of foreigners for my fellow students and me. We were taught that “Ubuntu” means, “for the people, by the people”. And in the closing segment of the debate, the debate coordinator quoted Mr. Nelson Mandela,”We are all African we must unite to fight poverty, crime and corruption.” I believe that us, youth must say no to xenophobia.

This experience got me thinking more about the issue of xenophobia.  I made an effort to hear both perspectives on this topic.

I decided to interview two people: one from my country, South African Nokuthula Kwanyane, and one from a  foreign country, Cussiem Joseph Malawian. I asked them one question, “What do you think causes xenophobia?”

Nokuthula answered, “The foreigners come here for significant reasons, but us native citizens end-up suffering. They are taking our job opportunities. They bring crime, such as human trafficking and drugs. Ever since the government allowed them to come here, crime rates have increased, which proves that the foreigners are the ones bringing crime. By fighting with the foreigners we are sending a message to the government that we don’t want them here.”

I was shocked to hear these words. Mr. Joseph replied to my initial question, “We come here for different reasons, such as constant wars in our countries and low income. We take any kind of job, no matter the working condition or how little the pay, because we need to survive. A half a loaf of bread is better than nothing.”  He took a deep a breath as he thought about the brother he lost as a result of a Xenophobic act. He continued, “Every country has good and bad people. Some of us come to South Africa for a good reason and some for a bad reason, those born in South Africa paint all foreigners with the same brush.”

My fellow South African citizens blame foreigners, who are mainly from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Mozambique, for every bad thing that happens in our country. If they see the crime rate has increased, we do nothing but shift the blame to others, while what we must take ownership of the countries issues in order to change the bad to good.

Fighting our brother and sister won’t solve the problem. Lots of lives were lost because of Xenophobia, and people were killed in unbearable ways. All their hard work was turned into ashes. Most of the foreigners moved back to their country because they feared for their lives. Did this change anything? The crime rates increase every day. Fighting with one another is not a solution. There are more ways to resolve issues in a peaceful manner.


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