02-19-2017  10:56 am      •     

May 25 was Africa Day, a day on which millions of people around the world celebrated African unity. 
But for more than 25,000 immigrants displaced by South Africa's worst violence since the Apartheid era, African unity is a bitter dream. 
The violence began as mob attacks against immigrants in the Alexandra Township, north of Johannesburg in the Gauteng Province. It has shocked Africans, as well as the rest of the Diaspora. The attacks are not only on foreigners, but, as categorized by the African National Congress, is also "an assault on the values of our democratic society." 
The Congress of South African Trade Unions has condemned the violence and is working with the non-governmental organization (NGO), Doctors without Borders, to identify hotspots and to provide staff to accompany doctors. 
We have seen the violence spread quickly throughout Gauteng into the provinces of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. TransAfrica Forum's contacts in South Africa have told us of surreal and frightening scenarios. They have reported that four million Zimbabweans are there, on top of the Mozambicans, Nigerians and Somalians.  
Governments and organizations are scrambling to determine the genesis of the violence. Many of us remember this type of politically motivated violence in South Africa before 1994. In addition to spontaneous episodes of mob violence, and coordinated criminal gang activity, we are now seeing that some attacks have been systematic and well organized. Officials have likened the violence to the third forces of the Apartheid government operatives, who were found to be responsible for much of the alleged Black-on-Black violence before the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994.
The violence represents the intersection of two major unresolved issues. First, there is the case of Zimbabwe's economic and political crises, which has resulted in the creation of millions of economic refugees, many of whom have fled to South Africa. 
Secondly, despite the early promise of South Africa's majority government, it has been unable to adequately resolve the economic legacy of Apartheid. Millions of South Africans are unemployed, impoverished and live without access to clean water, electricity or health care. Migrants are seen as further threats to their ability to achieve an adequate standard of living.
Zimbabweans, the largest immigrant group, have born the brunt of the recent violence. Horrific attacks have seen victims burnt, hacked, and stoned. Many victims have been injured and there are widespread reports of rape. Migrants from other African countries as well as some South African nationals have been caught up in the violence. Thousands have now fled their homes and sought sanctuary in police stations, churches and premises used by aid groups.
In Durban, a Nigerian-owned tavern was attacked by a mob of 150 men who, in addition to beating patrons, also ransacked the tavern and stole cash, liquor, cell phones and jewelry, pointing to the criminal element engaged in the riots as well.  
At least four "community leaders" have been arrested for inciting the xenophobic attacks and a total of 400 people have been arrested. 
South Africa's leading organizations should be applauded. Their quick mobilization efforts to condemn the violence and to offer shelter to the victims have saved countless numbers of lives. 
It is tragic that following centuries of fighting colonial rule, neo-colonialism and now corporate-led globalization, some in our communities continue to see enemies instead of allies: allies in the ongoing struggle to overturn the systems and global rules of inequality that keep the majority of us in economic poverty. Africa can, and will one day, celebrate Africa Day in the glory and tradition that makes the Continent great, but only when Africa's children throughout the Diaspora to stop the needless killing of each other, and turn a keen eye to the global forces that created the conditions we fight about. 

Nicole C. Lee is the executive director of TransAfrica Forum.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. 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Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. 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