Now more than ever, Africans across the continent have labelled South Africa as an afrophobic country. The 2010, 2015 and recent 2017 xenophobic attacks, primarily carried out on African foreign nationals, have left non-South African Africans (seeing these two identical words next to each other amplifies my point so unintentionally, yet so well), have left a sour taste in the mouths of those who once dreamed of making a life for themselves in the Sub-Saharan economic giant.
What the international community may not know is that Afrophobia in South Africa is not limited to foreign nationals; Even those who are naturalized citizens, born on South African soil or not, suffer the dire consequences of this heinous discrimination.
Wikipedia defines Afrophobia as a “perceived fear of and bias against peoples from Africa, including the diaspora”. The last part of this sentence defines the point of this article – it doesn’t matter if you’re a citizen. How do I know this?
Although I am from the Democratic Republic of Congo, I am a South African citizen and time and time again I have been marginalized and discriminated against.
Even though I don’t feel the effects of Afrophobia as strongly and regularly as my brothers and sisters who live in areas which have been known to be more afrophobic than others, I know I don’t speak for myself when I say that afrophobic South Africans don’t care about your civic/immigration status.\
Here are 3 places/situations where you are most likely to experience Afrophobia in South Africa regardless of whether you are a citizen or not:
1. Public Transport – Especially Minibus taxis
If you live in South Africa and you use public transport, particularly minibus taxis, you know exactly what I am talking about. Unless you blend in completely and speak with the relevant local language with no underlying foreign accent, using public transport can be a nightmare!
If you are unlucky enough to find yourself in a taxi in certain areas and the driver and/or passengers have it in for “other Africans”, your ride may just end up being particularly unpleasant.
You may be dropped off at the wrong stop on purpose, the driver and/or other commuters may refuse to address you in English, leaving you confused and disoriented; or you simply may feel uncomfortable.
2. Shops and Markets – Especially Grocery Chain Stores
The same feeling applies as my first point. When a teller in a store is afrophobic, you WILL feel it. I can’t tell you how many times I have literally been insulted and told to “go back to my country” when I am unable to have to respond to questions in a local language. It is highly uncomfortable and leaves me lost for words. Sometimes cashiers change their attitude with you when they realize that you speak with a different accent or don’t speak a local language at all.
3. Public Service Departments
Going to apply for a new passport or renewing your driver’s license can been a nightmare for naturalized citizens. You are singled out, treated differently, gossiped about and even denied service. For instance when my then-fiancé and I were trying to book a date for our civil wedding, we were turned down literally more than 6 times at 3 different departments for reasons I deem afrophobic.
What should have been a joyful time for us quickly became a struggle. I remember one lady asked me “where did you get this ID?” (identity document). She went on to ask “did you make it yourself like you people always do”. Another one told me that even though I was a citizen, I would never truly be a South African…
I love South Africa. It’s my home. I love the people, the cultures, the weather, the vibe, the food, the history, etc. What I don’t like is the reputation afrophobic people are giving the country. I hate the ignorance and the sheer hate.
In the recent xenophobic attacks this year a person literally said this in an interview on the news: “we want these Africans to go back to where they come from”. This broke my heart. Aren’t we all Africans? Colonialists segregated us many years ago and now we are doing the same thing to our brothers and sisters?
Unfortunately, being a South African citizen doesn’t shield you from Afrophobia. I want to feel at home, but sometimes it is really hard to when you are constantly asked to “go back to where you come from”… #NoToXenophobia #NoToAfrophobia