HUNDREDS of South Africans walked out of a meeting in Johannesburg called to combat the ongoing scourge of xenophobia when Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) founder Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi asked them to remember the sacrifices made by other Africans during the liberation struggle.
Over recent weeks, angry mobs of South African youths frustrated with their economic plight have vented their fury on African migrants in the country, burning down businesses and attacking foreign nationals. Their actions have led to widespread condemnation, with African leaders reminding South Africans who fought for their freedom from apartheid.
Under pressure, South Africa’s leaders have tried to organise a series of education seminars to remind their populace that it was other Africans who fought to liberate them. At one such gathering yesterday, Chief Buthelezi, the traditional prime minister to the Zulu nation, reminded his audience that South Africans dare not forget or disregard the sacrifices made by former Nigerian president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and other African leaders.
In his speech, Buthelezi highlighted the role, Nigeria played in ensuring that the country gained independence. He also praised Chief Obasanjo’s role and asked if the xenophobic attacks were the best way to pay back the huge risks African countries like Lesotho, Swaziland, Nigeria, Zambia and Tanzania took on their behalf.
Chief Buthelezi said: “We dare not forget or disregard all that was done for us by African leaders like His Excellency President Olusegun Obasanjo. As a member of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, General Obasanjo revealed to the world the real conditions of our people under apartheid. He supported us in our stand against the regime’s plan to deprive us of our citizenship.
“In fact, on the very day that Transkei took so-called independence, President Obasanjo arranged for me and my wife to be in Nigeria so that I could avoid attending Transkei’s independence ceremony. General Obasanjo invited me to Nigeria again this year, where I delivered a lecture in celebration of his 82nd birthday.
During his speech, the mob walked out on him, chanting “foreigners must go back to where they came from.” To make matters worse, the resulting violence led to the death of one person.