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Kgebetli Moele

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Imagined Liberation: A review

Imagined LiberationThere are many factors that propel life forward, just as there are many that qualify and give life purpose, individually and collectively. We hardly question them, but find ourselves willing or unwilling contributors and sustainers of these factors in our lives. I have never asked who made the shoes I am wearing. I have never asked why I was born black, or why it is that I found myself living on this dark continent, just as I have never asked why and who called this The Dark Continent.

Yet, we humans have tried to answer questions beyond our basic function of living. We have probed outer space. We know the relationships and living conditions of whales. With all this knowledge, one would believe that human beings would have near perfect interrelations. Yet even in this Global Village we are still as strange as the Caveman.

In Imagined Liberation, Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley ask vital questions about what has affected our daily lives since Adam. Presenting their case through the prism of three countries, their study attempts to give answers and solutions to the problems of xenophobia, citizenship and identity, and ask how we can be better human beings in sophisticated cosmopolitan cities and nations. Reading Imagined Liberation, I realised one fact: It would be an easier task for human beings to tame a shark and teach it how to communicate rather than teach a human being to be Human.

The misinterpretation of religions belief as a form of xenophobia in Germany, where Christianity is threatened by Islam. Northern Ireland takes the stand, where equal people have fought tooth and nail merely because they are separated by their religious beliefs. In India it is the Muslims and the Hindus and in Rwanda the Hutus and Tutsis. The break-up of Yugoslavia and the wars that resulted. The list goes on and on through history, and there will always be additions in the future.

However, Imagined Liberation fails to give answers or even theories that can serve as the starting point to finding solutions about why it is so easy to separate human beings.

Since 1980, illegal immigrants from Mozambique have moved in numbers to South Africa and there had never been an attack on them. We accommodated them and many became citizens. Why suddenly this violence against immigrants? We have been living with Zimbabwean immigrants from 1995 and Malawian immigrants since 1986. Maybe there were unreported incidents.

Why is it that today we have labelled ourselves xenophobic? What is the root of the problem and what are the related issues, primary and secondary? Why is it that different religions clash with each other? These are the questions that the authors of Imagined Liberation fail to probe and answer, thereby failing their study.

But the answers are there: In South Africa where the poor and the disenfranchised’s anger is labelled as black hate. All the supposedly xenophobic attacks occurred informal settlements, where poor South Africans occupy land illegally with immigrants who are taking low paying jobs and further driving the minimum wage, set out by government but not regulated across all industry. That these immigrants are making a living below the minimum wage and surviving angers a South African, who cannot accept lower than minimum wage. This rage builds, it roots itself and flowers and you can feel it in the children at a foreign-owned spaza shop, even while they are buying from the foreign owner. The owner smiles, making the transaction, as angry money is still money.

It just needs one incident to explode; the news that foreigners were attacked in Mshengoville, west of Tshwane, ignites the anger brewing in an informal settlement in Germiston, Harvest Time. Then the government will say that there are individuals trying to destabilise the country. I don’t see xenophobia, I see econophobia, people waiting to live, waiting for RDP houses, waiting for services, waiting for justice and equality, hence we have service delivery protests, we have dwindling voter registration and a diminishing voting queue.

As diverse a country as South Africa is, as any nation is, our human separation is an onionskin. Far more dangerous are the thoughts, the principles and the social values and conditions that thrust us forward. They are the marrow that separates human beings.

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