Dear Black South Africans,
May you please give us a break?
By 'us' I mean non-South African Black Africans.
It seems a lot of us suffer from selective amnesia but it wasn't long ago that many of you were fleeing South Africa to head to Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique and other places during the horrendous apartheid regime.
Many of us accommodated you during your time of turmoil.
It seems the tables have changed. We have been flooding South Africa for various reasons: education, so-called 'greener pastures', refugee status as we are fleeing other African governments.
As both a Kongolese and a Zimbabwean 'my' people are represented in their millions I believe.
So what is this rant about? Well let me get onto it:
A number of times when we get onto taxis, a fair number of you insist on speaking to us in your spoken [native] language- that is: Zulu, Xhosa, and other African languages spoken on this side of the world- because of our shared Blackness- which by the way isn't homogeneous. And yet, when we reply in English, which is the language we have either come to learn as a third or fourth language, or as an official language from where we come from- we get given the cold shoulder we are responded to in a local South African language.
The irony is that: we may at times would have been in your country for a few days, a few weeks, a few months, a few years- and yet you do not [seem to] expect the same from your white South Africans whom you have "shared" this physical space for centuries.
A white South African gets into a taxi, you speak to them in English. A white foreigner gets into a taxi, you speak to them in English. A non-South African Black African gets into a taxi, you speak to them in your local language and give them so much shade for not understanding you.
Would you give us a break please? Africa isn't homogeneous. We speak other African languages and unless we come from the neighbouring countries such as Botswana, Zimbabwe (read South of Zim), we would most likely not be able to communicate using an African language-yet.
I understand this is your home ground and you expect us to adapt to your ways. And a lot of are trying. We are hustling hard- to the point of being murdered for being other'ed by you as job and wives thieves- which is not true.
Many of us work our butts off to send money home to loved ones, working as car guards, trying to have a spaza shop here and there, yet we- the most vulnerable ones- get systematically oppressed by the already oppressed.
I understand the socio-economic realities of this country makes us- Black Africans- easy targets to unleash your wrath and anger that you hold towards your government, country, concerning unemployment.
We most likely have it worse because the majority of us do not have ID's, then there are those of us who are here illegally- not by choice (well we do have agency, but) the reality on the ground in a place like Zimbabwe has pushed us to do unthinkable things such as 'jumping the border'. It isn't right by law but we think we do not have another choice- other than to starve and die.
We are not the enemy.
Allow us time to integrate and learn some of your ways in order that we may temporarily 'co-habitate' in this land whilst we are sorting our shit out.
Give us a break. Abeg o.
Shingai is a Congolese and Zimbabwean, passionate about ethnochoreology, dance, technology, and politics within Africa.
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