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Cutting through the fog of violence in the black communities

By Thobani Zikalala

South Africa (SA) is facing a spate of violence which has drawn a lot of media attention recently (violence is not foreign to this country). As we all know a colony like ours survives and maintains itself through violence historically and in present time. This violence includes the recent incidence against foreign nationals (African nationals) residing in SA; the gender based violence (GBV) that has been reported mostly in the media; and off course the violence in Cape Town which the media does not tell us about on its front pages and the government ignores. The stories that make headlines in SA are mainly that of GBV and the so-called xenophobic violence (which for the media means any attack on foreign nationals). The violence in the Cape Flats and townships are effectively pushed out of the focus of the public.

This is the fog one wishes to cut through. When it comes to violence against foreign nationals, is the cry of the native legitimate or is the violence done by a bunch of hostel and township dwellers who don’t want to work hard and are lazy people? I will discuss the violence in the townships against Ethiopians and Somalis operating tuck-shops there. It has been recorded that at least R12 billion worth of the existing economy lies with the tuck-shop business, yet the majority of that economy belongs to outside wholesalers and foreign shop owners. The question arising is, who owns the tuck-shops that we see in the townships being run by the foreign national? The truth is that the Somalis and Ethiopians who work in these tuck-shops do not own these businesses. The wholesale companies are the ones that run the majority of the tuck-shops which lie within the economy of the townships. This explains why the people who the public erroneously views as owning R12 billion of the economy (Somalis and Ethiopians) are sleeping and living inside the tuck-shops they supposedly own. The majority of the township tucks-shops used to previously belong to, South African blacks including Bab Dlamini, Bab Khumalo and Mam’ Mkhize – yet today they are driven out of the township businesses and economy. The people who work in the shops don’t own them. Yet Bab Dlamini, when he is angry, takes out his anger on those who appear to him to be taking away his stake of the economy and his livelihood. The dissatisfaction of Bab Khumalo and Bab Dlamini, which stems from what they see on the surface is justifiable – as they feel that their friends, the Somalis and Ethiopians, are benefitting while they who are South African blacks in the townships don’t benefit from that economy.

Who then does it serve when there’s violence between Bab Dlamini and the Somalis; when Bab Khumalo and his fellow people are closing their tuck-shops; and when malls are brought closer to the townships? Now enters the central contradiction – the enemy of the people which is white monopoly capital (WMC). In the townships WMC like Shoprite, Pick n Pay and now apparently even KFC are entering the township and establishing small tuck-shops from which they are selling food that was once the market of Bab Dlamini. Now how is that fair competition between Bab Khumalo, the WMC company and the tuck shop run by the foreign national under the foreigner? After 25 years of democracy even the economy of the township is shifting to WMC instead of earning capital for the people of SA because they historically have no capital to have a strong hold on the township economy.

It is clear that the issue of drug related ills in the townships, which is blamed on the Nigerians, has been blamed on xenophobia by the media – that the drug network is the centre of this violence. It is worth mentioning, before I continue, that Jabu Baloyi died standing up against the scourge of drugs in the township. May his soul Rest in Power. Now the question is, are South Africans fighting against Nigerians or against the drugs that has destroyed a lot of young people. Is the father, brother and in some cases mother not justified in being angry towards the people that they see on a daily basis in the streets being the ones selling drugs? Yes they are. Now to clear the fog on those oppressed we must go back in history and ask who owned the drug cartel in SA before 1994. The Nigerian national arrived in SA as a merchant and a seller of drugs and is currently in a battle for control of the drug industry. Now Nigerians are the Guptas of the drug industry, fighting for the control of the drug cartel.

South Africans are engaged in a fight against drugs which they see is caused by the Nigerians. They see their fight as legitimate and not xenophobic. However for any thoroughgoing victory on the war on drugs, we need to understand that the source of the drug problem is located far beyond the Nigerians – it is located in the anti blackness of WMC. To this end we should ask, who funds the Nigerian who illegally comes to SA with no money only to control an entire territory as well as the corrupt police and government officials who allow for the drug dealers to protect them?

While on the topic of war the country should look at how South African violence has a pattern. The same war on drugs is at the centre of the gang war in the Cape Flats and the townships in Cape Town. This war is funded and the biggest contributors to the influx of drugs in South African townships is by people living in the suburbs and using the poor people in the townships to run their territories. The South African white owned media benefits from making the black South African male an enemy of peace, and by extension an enemy of the existing white peace in the eyes of the country – as it has done historically.

When one looks at statistics that have come out recently it leaves you with questions of the legitimacy of media and society that focuses on criminality and not the effects of it. Out of 21000 people that die 16000 of them are men, 3000 are Black women and about 700 are children. The black man kills himself, kills black women and kills black children. Black children are capable of killing as much as the black woman within the black zone. Like I said in the beginning of this piece that this violence is maintained in order to ensure that the white man continues to control the country of the black man who in turn is at war with himself and at the centre of poverty and all the other ills, including the scourge of drugs and GBV, brought about by white supremacy which translates itself as WMC on the economic sphere. With the black oppressed we must find the solution instead of looking at our oppressors to save us from an oppression that they started in the ghettos and townships.

If we were to be realistic about the reality of SA, the existence of townships should be dismantled just as how the concentration camps were brought down in Germany and in this country during the Anglo Boer War. But it is not in the interests of white settler monopoly capital – which in cahoots with western imperialism runs this country via the government – to end the townships. The township was built as a permanent concentration camp together with hostels. It is maintained to perpetuate colonialism and apartheid. In this context the townships will continue to be the biggest constituencies for crimes including murder and GBV, and police are meant (via the logic of the enemy) to ignore addressing the resolution of these crimes.

Mntwana kaPhindangene, a Zulu nationalist and great leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), is someone who has been in control of violence in the hostels and the violence of people. We have seen his role towards the sovereignty and control of the Zulu nation. We have seen his role recently via negotiations to end the drug related violence between South African blacks and Nigerian foreign nationals. We witnessed how for the first time he was not listened to by the so called Zulu nationality. This is because these people have lost everything and they felt that his intervention does not have their best interests at heart. To understand the struggles in SA, it is important to also take into account the different struggles being waged in townships. To this end the role of those who lead the struggles of the rural people and the hostel dwellers cannot be ignored. What we need to do is to convert the reactionary war going on between blacks (local versus foreign) into a revolutionary war against the real cause of their problems – WMC. This means we must take the war to the enclaves of WMC like Sandton, Kloof and Clifton that survives and maintains itself through the violence is the black communities. Until the privileged are affected, the grievances of blacks will fall on deaf ears or even worse, black pain will be sold to the highest bidder.

So it does not assist to direct our anger as locals at fellow blacks from other parts of the world. Black pain is a multi-million-rand industry in this country it is institutionally built into the structural logic of the system that governs us. Violence in the black communities and the state’s lack of meaningful response to it is a norm. SteveBiko’s advice, “Black man you are on your own” is therefore very relevant. The government and the laws are not designed to benefit blacks. After over 400 years of slavery, the only thing we have as blacks, which came out of the anti black settlement of 94, is the right to vote for who can best oppress us so as to maintain white privilege and power.

The executive Mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, manipulates the situation and speaks about the Nigerians hijacking buildings in the city and that these buildings must be returned to the rightful people. By this he means the buildings must be returned to the WMC companies and other entities who formerly owned it. So this war on drugs will be used to ultimately benefit whites. This is the same logic used in the other metropolitan areas, including Pretoria and Cape Town. The idea is to preserve for WMC interests the strategic economies that lie in the respective the CBDs. The solution does not lie in opening of borders. Africans don’t control and benefit from the economy in most African countries – WMC does. So opening the borders benefits WMC. Until WMC is destroyed opening the border will not serve blacks. The fight to liberate Africa should therefore not be delinked from the fight against WMC and by extension colonialism.

The idea that local blacks are lazy and are accordingly to be blamed for their problems, is wrong. Our problems in Afrika began with the advent of colonialism and will only be resolved with the total eradication of that system. The fact that people cannot even survive in their own countries and consequently seek refuge in SA is because of what colonialism has done in their countries. The struggle against colonialism within the respective Afrikan countries is therefore indispensable to the realization of a united and healthy Afrika, free from drugs, GBV, murders and all the other ills of colonialism.

Thobani Zikalala (#TheNontsentsikalLion) is the Black First Land First (BLF) -National Secretary for Student Affairs. Acknowledgement: Transcribed with additions by Ndiphiwe Cetywayo Ah Faku.