Kuzituka Did’ho J-M 2013. Christianity in a cosmopolitan City. Overcoming Xenophobia and racism in the light of the Bible. St Francis Bay: SA Catholic Online Books. xii+63 pages. ISBN 978-0-620-75363-0. Price R120.
This book is written from an emic perspective; the author is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has lived, studied and worked in South Africa for some years. Being black and ‘foreign’ he has experienced both xenophobia and racism. Being a Christian he has searched for an appropriate church response to these issues and this small volume is the outcome.
In the first chapter, he analyses the political and economic context of South Africa in historical and contemporary life. Chapter two reflects on national identity and immigration. This is followed by a chapter on the churches and integration with a particular focus on the situation in the first century Corinthian and Galatian churches. Chapter four studies the biblical foundation of the church’s missionary activity from the gospels. The final chapter develops a theory of social justice. The book then has a conclusion and two appendices on the research process and the need for both the church and state to act to alleviate and resolve the situation.
One of the initial problems highlighted is that blacks and whites do not know how to interact with each other socially and violence was a major outcome of the disparity in power levels with the oppressor being the instigator of trauma. A missing factor in South African-immigrant relations is the lack of the much touted concept of ubuntu which is constantly honoured in the breach of the value. Latent hostility towards foreign nationals is unacceptable both from an African and Christian point of view. The assumption that ‘foreign national come to south Africa is also challenged as most are self sufficient and come for temporary residence rather than long term stays.
What is sad is that we reach conclusions regarding immigrants largely on the basis of misinformation and the media are at the front of this process, highlighting the negative side of having a diverse population rather than its benefits or achievements. This only serves to divert attention away from the real issues our nation is facing as we scapegoat those we perceive to be a threat.
This is a well-balanced and reflective response to xenophobia and racism. It is worthy of further study. It is not comfortable reading but it does point us to our failures as ‘the rainbow people of God’.
Kuzituka Did’ho J-M 2018. The trial of African solidarity (vol I): Is this the Africa we fought for? St Francis Bay: SA Catholic Online Books. xii+137 pages. ISBN 978-0-6399359-4-2. Price R150.
Xenophobia is not just an African or a South African issue. The Brexit debate in the United Kingdom has facilitated the exhibition of the worst characteristics in human nature for political gain with regard to immigrants who have made a significant contribution to the life of the nation and its economy despite the negative propaganda to the contrary. The aim of this book is to create safe spaces for people to share their experiences and dialogue about xenophobia, racism and race relations; to explore the relationships between black South Africans and African immigrants in South Africa (p.123)
The value of this book on xenophobia is that it is small yet packed with helpful information presented in a well-balanced manner. It is brief enough (138 pages) so that readers will not find it tedious reading and lucid enough that they will not have to struggle to understand it. The content is comprehensive and is well organised into ten chapters; national identity and immigration from Africa South Africa as a country of refuge, rural exodus and African immigration, xenophobia in Johannesburg, South Africa as a country of choice, Immigrants as small entrepreneurs, the role of education, marriage between locals and immigrants, the church as the process of home-making and illuminations on the relationships between black South Africans and African immigrants.
A number of interesting points emerged for me in reading this book. I am reminded of the concept of historical African solidarity which is determinative of African identity and which is disintegrating as the result of xenophobia. The author rightly places this ‘solidarity’ on trial. I also note that the presence of foreign nationals in itself does not produce a negative response, but when it is combined with domestic (South African problems) the outcome is lethal. Acceptance of difference is another issue. It is not possible for people to give up their cultural heritage in order to settle here. This would place us in the same position as the missionaries who expected Africans to disown their cultures, which was considered extremely offensive. An underemphasised matter is the lack of support from the African Union for greater mutual acceptance throughout Africa.
This book succeeds in achieving its aim. It is a helpful contribution to a debate on a subject which challenges the communal basis of African society. It challenges misconceptions and goes deeper than surface assumptions and prejudices. It demonstrates the positive contributions that African immigrants have made to South African society and the South African economy. What I would have found helpful is a greater interrogation of the role of the African Union in healing the wounds inflicted by this parasitic growth in our country.