“I sang struggle songs with the South Africans when they were in Kenya, hiding from the government,” my uncle used to say. Granted, it was after a few rounds at a local watering hole and he may not have had all the words correct, but the sentiment was there.
This is a fuzzy snapshot of the sibling-like history of our continent. We had the idea that as South Africa limped towards the finish line, the rest of the continent was feeding it orange slices and cups of water, and urging it on.
Some nations gave so much love that they were even allowed into the Southern African Development Community, despite being in East Africa. Looking at you, Tanzania.
Fast forward to the present day. The history of our interconnections is all but forgotten, not just in Southern Africa but across the board. Everyone is free and everyone is on the same level playing field, where they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Yet xenophobia is occurring because South Africans are convinced that foreigners are trying to steal not only their bootstraps but the whole damn boot.
I recently saw a text message making the rounds that stated: “We have just come out of an oppressive regime whilst you in the north have been enjoying freedom since 1960, 1975 and 1981.” It then went on to urge foreigners to go home so locals could enjoy their freedom in peace – the idea being that this freedom operates in isolation.
What South Africans (and Africans) do not understand is that we are each other’s last hope because, frankly, the world out there does not love us. The Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) bloc is not, unfortunately, your international BFF. The Chinese barely love the people next door, the Europeans still see us as “the help”, the Middle East would rather enslave us than welcome us, and in parts of Asia they will not give you an express visa because you are black.
And the United States? Well, go there and try being black on a good day.
The person who calls you brother and genuinely means it is your neighbour. Yes, that Nigerian man who pronounced it “broda”.
A new type of pan-Africanism is needed. We are in the same situation that brought us together in the first place. It is just wearing a new outfit and calling itself the global village. We are still the kids on the playground whom no one will play with. Before, at least, we still had each other.
It may be time to all meet in a pub and sing some continental struggle songs. And, at this point, we could all do with a stiff drink.
Kagure Mugo is the co-founder and curator of the HOLAAfrica! blog