Is South Africa No Longer The Rainbow Nation?

Is South Africa No Longer The Rainbow Nation?

In the euphoria of South Africa’s first free elections in 1994, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called the country the “Rainbow Nation” to describe the post Apartheid nation that will unite the black and the whites and the foreign.

But the event of recent months seem to have wiped the colors off Tutu’s vision.

What started as a small squabble in a spaza shop in the county’s largest slum, Soweto, that left a 14-year old boy killed by a bullet of a foreign shop owner of Somali origin, quickly degenerated to rampant looting of all immigrant owned shops in the locality.

A widespread belief that foreign nationals of various origins from Somalis to Zimbabweans who’ve invested in small enterprises across major cities in the country are killing local businesses by not employing locals and rarely paying taxes fanned the xenophobic attacks that were last witnessed in the country in 2008.

A faltering economy — which has been growing at less than 2 percent for a couple of year — has even made the African National Congress (ANC) government lethargic to foreign investors buying vineyards, game parks and even farmland across of the country .

Unapologetic ANC

There  is already a bill in parliament to limit foreign investors to only leasing land in the country to a maximum of 30-to-50 years.

The government is also limiting the type of jobs open to foreigners in what it says are efforts to promote local hiring. According to government statistics, more than half of south African youth aged below 25 years are unemployed.

ANC has also asked foreign security firms to sell more than half of their shares to South Africans and also plans to force oil and gas exploration companies to cede a 20 percent stake to guarantee some local gains.

“It’s a very unstrategic and increasingly populist approach,” Ingrid Palmary, director of the African Center for Migration & Society at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, told the Wall Street Journal.

But the government is unapologetic of what Archbishop Tutu said mid last month were efforts to  “undermining a key foundation stone of our (South Africa’s) democracy.”

“Sometimes, people talk to us as if we are governing for foreign investors. They are not citizens. The interests of citizens come before foreigners,” Gwede Mantashe, the ANC’s powerful secretary-general, said.