South Africa, May 2009.
We watched in disbelief as a rubber tire was placed around the kwere-kwere â€™s (as foreigners are known in South Africa) neck amidst blood-curdling chants as the singular cry for mercy was choked off by litres of fuel. The fuel trickled down the kwere-kwereâ€™s face, mercifully blinding him from seeing the end that was to come. We gasped in horror as the mob struck a match and fearlessly tossed it at the kwere-kwereâ€”evoking a baptism of fire and of death. The fire billowed on, long after the kwere-kwereâ€™s soul had descended into the after-life.
The kwere-kwereâ€™s crime? Being a foreigner!
Norway, 22 July 2011.
Elisabeth, 16, felt a piercing pain shoot through her entire person. Her world began to spin as blood gushed from the hole left by a hollow-point bullet. She fell to the groundâ€”staring up at a sky which was punctuated by tree-leaves and a blurred black shape pointed at her. As the blur began to sharpen, she realised she was staring down the barrel of a loaded gun and into the crazed face of a mad gunmanâ€”a fellow countryman. Before she could ask why, another relentless bullet ruptured through her, making her one of 77 dead on that cold day in July.
Elisabethâ€™s crime? Well, according to the gunman, she was guilty of believing in a world where the colour of oneâ€™s skin did not matter.
The gunmanâ€™s name is Anders Breivik.
We watched all of it and we marvelledâ€”wondering to ourselves “what is the world coming to?” But we marvelled in safety, we watched in safety, assuring ourselves that the worldâ€™s pandemic of madness, as glorified by the 24-hour media machine, would never come to our doorstep. It would never happen hereâ€”not here in the Warm Heart of Africa..
That was until 2nd May 2012 in the often-ridiculed district of Dowaâ€”our own Nazareth, where something cold was born.
The blue skies were tainted with black clouds of smoke as homes and businesses of foreignersâ€”our own kwere-kweresâ€”were burnt to the ground. Foreigners screamed for their lives as they were hounded by residents of the Warm Heart of Africa. Hundreds sought shelter at the local police station. Many, as a result, packed what little they had amassed and started another directionless journey in the hope of finding a Warmer Heart.
The whole thing sounded like a lurid rendition of the atrocities the foreigners had long left behind when they found refuge here in Malawi. The thing we had hoped would never happen here has happenedâ€”the madness we felt safe from, has come to our doorstep, and the frenzy is on!
International agencies are expressing their dismay using every adjective to describe their surprise, disgust and surprise again. NGOs are doing their usual shuck and jive by offering assurances to the international community in the hope for continued sustainable (self) development.
The usual suspects are doing the usual.
But the real question is yet to be asked, let alone answered, and that is: How did we not see this coming? How, with all the education and experience we find pride in having, did we not see this coming? The answer is quite simple: We werenâ€™t listening!
The xenophobic attacks on 2nd May were not actually “xenophobic”, as in racist or nationalistic terms, but rather they were a reaction to a system that had inadvertently made foreigners out of its own nationals. This was done through a lethal mix of: government machinery that favoured foreigners over its own people.
A citizenry, often stereotyped as smiling buffoons, who continually allowed themselves to be stepped on and called it humility.
A growing array of foreigners who got a little too comfortable in a foreign land.
When you add it all up, you find it leads to only one conclusion: 2nd May was a long time comingâ€”a disaster waiting to happen.
The madness, we hoped would not come, is standing at our doorstep, but it wonâ€™t end there. This madness is the kind that spreads, but who else will it touch?
This madness is a dangerous pandemic. And if ignored, then be assured that 2nd May 2012 will be remembered as only the tip of an iceberg when a “Malawian Anders Breivik” takes matters into his own hands.
â€”The author is a Blantyre-based social commentator.