Patients have been prohibited from healthcare facilities because of the pigmentation of their skin and the language they speak. This comes after a video showed Limpopo health MEC Phophi Ramathuba shouting at a patient for using “her” facilities when she should be using Zimbabwean ones.
South Africa’s healthcare system has been sick for most of the 28 years under a democratic dispensation. Systematic and structural factors affect the country’s public health services. They include the poor management of public sector hospitals, health professional shortages, low morale and productivity levels, corruption and poor planning.
The lower quality of public healthcare pushes people — at least those who can afford it — to private healthcare. All these issues and others have nothing to do with foreign nationals in South Africa.
We have witnessed xenophobic attacks from 2008 until the present. Such attacks are Afrophobic because black South Africans fight fellow black Africans from other African states, such as Zimbabwe and Nigeria, whose nationals make up the majority of foreign immigrants. Xenophobia has never been decisively addressed.
The lessons of history should serve as a warning about the dangers of scapegoating minority groups and brainwashing the public into believing falsehoods about them. For a dictator like Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party, propaganda was an important tool to win over the majority of the German public. It served to push forward the Nazi’s radical programme, which required the acquiescence, support or participation of broad sectors of the population.
The outcome of Hitler’s propagandabrought about the deaths of 20 946 000 people, including Jews, Roma, homosexuals, black people and those with mental disabilities as well as other minority groups. From 1941 to 1945 alone, six million Jews were killed by the Nazi extremists. Hitler blamed everything that was going wrong in Germany and in the world on Jews. He believed that the extermination of Jewish people would be the new beginning for Germany to conquer the world. People easily followed what Hitler and his Nazi Party propagandists said, blaming Jews for problems of which Jews knew nothing.
In South Africa today, attacks on foreign nationals are to a large extent being purposefully engineered for political point-scoring purposes by demagogues and populists wishing to occupy a public office or strengthen their political standing. It is unfortunate that, like Germans under the dictatorship of Hitler, South Africans desperate for jobs or have adequate services delivered by the government are becoming accomplices in inhumane actions by blindly blaming foreign nationals for what is the government’s disastrous track record in governing.
This blame game by government officials such as Ramathuba, Lindiwe Zulu and other politicians and activists such as Nhlanhla Lux, formerly of Operation Dudula, is misplaced, baseless and false. Their sole intent is to find people upon whom to lay the blame for the country’s being on the brink of collapse.
The ANC appears incapable of taking responsibility for its failure to properly administer and govern since assuming office in 1994. In the midst of all the wrong things happening in this country, it still wishes to be seen and treated as a liberator of the South African masses.
The ANC should take the country into confidence on the current status quo. All those blaming foreign nationals for corruption should be condemned to prevent unnecessary tensions between South Africans and Africans from other countries on the continent. Not so long ago they were being blamed for heightened levels of criminal activities. Now they are blamed, just as falsely, for the collapse of the already failing public healthcare system.
South Africa is a member state of the regional Southern African Development Community and the African Union. With its economic muscle and influence, it has a responsibility to ensure that there is peace and stability in other African countries. This is especially true of Zimbabwe, a country on its doorstep. Pretoria has not been helpful in resolving the Zimbabwean crisis since the early 2000s.
The failure of Zimbabwe is the reason that many Zimbabweans have had to leave their country and come to South Africa in search of a livelihood. Now they, and other African migrants, are being unjustly blamed for the failures in South Africa.
Kenneth Mokgatlhe is a freelance journalist and writer.