An open letter to outraged, middle-class South Africans

    Abu O’Well received this letter from a friend in Alexandra: 

    Dear #NoToXenophobia people,

    Shaken up, aren’t you? You saw some knobkerries and hammers and you’re ready to pack up.

    When you are done passing on sandwiches to foreigners maybe you can come visit us, the locals. Maybe you can come see our lives.

    Last week, my sister’s son was bitten by amagundwane, you know, those big rats. Moses survived, but now we don’t know if he has rabies. They took him to the clinic, but they said he has to come back next week because
    the nurse couldn’t find a taxi. Because of xenophobia they said. So my sister came back home to Kennedy Road (she lives in Durban) and her son will get bitten again. Because of the foreigners. The world must stop. Because of them.

    Xenophobia is the cause of everything today. There aren’t any toilets. Because of xenophobia. No electricity? Because of xenophobia.

    Do you think we are stupid and blind? We see how outraged you are when some foreigners are attacked. We see you taking them hot food, providing them with shelter. I’m sure there are no rats in those tents. My brother in Jo’burg told me that in Mayfair you have a big tent with just 35 people inside. Maybe 200 people can fit in it but it’s reserved for foreigners. But what about the homeless sleeping around Mayfair? Why not give them shelter also? Whose country is this? I’m very confused.

    We know you like them; the foreigners. They can buy your things and sell them to us. They are good at business, no matter. But you are only interested in business and money. But we have to live with them. We have to take their stares. They look at us like we are surrounded by all this opportunity, but too stupid to do anything about it. They think we are less than them.

    So you want to deal with them, protect them because it’s easier to build your wealth with them rather than help us. Go ahead. It is easier to work with them rather than train us, educate us. Oh, you think we should educate ourselves? Ah, yes, we are lazy and feel entitled. At my cousin’s school in Messina they’ve had no textbooks since last year. The teacher comes to class drunk on Tuesdays.

    Some papers were changed, apartheid was over but what skills do I have to make freedom real for me? They promised us so much, but where are the fruits of this nation? I see fuck all.

    After fifty years of pushing us down in the mud, you want us to behave like the foreigners who made it here. Some of them are teachers, doctors, lawyers – they came here because of trouble in their homes. How is that my fault?

    There is so little space here in the townships – and they are taking that too. If we live in the city, we must live like dogs in a dirty hostel. If we go back to the farm, they tell us to go back to Durban or Jozi. They say it’s drying up there. The farmers have foreigners in the field also. It’s cheaper to hire them than us.

    These guys have their own system of money lending. But tell me who will give me a loan? I don’t even have an address. Who will give me a chance?

    So we come back here to the township. And we scavenge for the leftovers. We burn some tyres, then the counsellor talks to us – otherwise no one comes to Alex. No journalists come here. We know how to get them though.

    We’ve got the message now to calm it down. So we will.

    We know your beloved image has been damaged. You want to protect your business in Zambia and Congo and wherever. It’s okay, go do your thing. Ignore us. Treat us like fools.

    But remember it will happen again.

    Yours faithfully,
    The xenophobic mob

    – Featured image: By Qiniso Mbili.