Monday, May 19, 2008

(Black) South Africans attack (Black) Immigrants

This is a disturbing story from South Africa:

At least 12 people have been killed in the South African city of Johannesburg since Friday in a wave of violence directed at immigrants, police say.

Police have used tear gas and rubber bullets to try to stop gangs of armed youths from attacking foreigners and looting and burning their property.

Five people were killed overnight in the area of Cleveland. Two of them were burned and the others beaten to death

I used the title with great sadness as this story reminded me of a depressing conversation I had in many years ago.

Straight after Zimbabwe independence I was attached to the British Military Advisory Training Team (BMATT) and posted to the Zimbabwe School of Signals in Bulawayo. My job was to teach a mixed class of whites and blacks as part of the integration process. When I first arrived I was met by the white Captain in charge of the wing to be briefed on my duties. He was long serving and had been in the Rhodesian Army. The part of the conversation that I can hear as clearly as if it was yesterday was when he said:

You may think me as racists, but you have to understand that nobody hates a black more than another black.

He was right, I did think him a racist and over the next 6 months he didn't do anything to change my opinion. As it happens I had a good class that got on well with blacks and whites mixing amicable and helping each other.

In one respect he was right – over the years I have learned that nobody hates man more than another man and that being the same race, colour, creed or even family does nothing to curb man's potential for barbarity. One needs only to look at Cambodia, Former Yugoslavia and the suicide bombings in Middle East to realise how low we can stoop. I find it quite depressing at times.

So back to the story, all we have learned is that when black, poor, South Africans feel threatened by an influx of foreigners they lash out in similar ways to some whites have done in this country, but maybe without the violence.

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