Why this disturbing sense of déjà vu this last week?

Not for the uneasiness of May 2008 after a Mozambican was set alight in a township. But all over the news: the anticipation; the excitement; the Countdown. As if we are once more looking forward to the kick off. Ke Nako: Xenophobia Time.

How can someone have put a date on ‘an outbreak of xenophobic violence’? ‘An outbreak’ is spontaneous. Something with a date attached to it is ‘an event’, surely? Planned for. Pre-meditated. With a press campaign, and sponsors.

Why does it feel like the media is grateful that these ‘rumours’ are giving us all something else to get excited about, just as the inevitable post-World Cup anticlimax looms. They seem almost eager to keep the excitement going, prolong the spectacle of countries beating each other for our entertainment.

The ‘rumours’ also give the government something else to distract us from Eskom price hikes and the lack of service delivery. It seems that although there may be enough political will to ensure the completion of stadiums and public transport infrastructure with remarkable speed and efficiency, there isn’t enough to stand up and loudly proclaim the rights to safety of all people on our soil.

Are we only happy to blow our vuvuzelas, smile and welcome the world to South Africa as long as they’re the type of foreigner that has money to spend? Viva Bafana Bafana but Kill Makwerekwere? Why this double standard? This is definitely not Ayoba. We’ve proved how powerful we can be when we decide to work together to build up our spirits. We can choose to whip up the Gees or whip up the Hatred.

We will make the effort to get out of the suburbs and into town for the Fanmile, but we won’t walk a mile in another man’s shoes if he’s a frightened Zimbabwean on a train this week. Or a Somalian mother in a Khayelitsha shop. Or a Congolese child in a Mitchell’s Plain school.

Would we feel more solidarity with Malawians if they had a decent football team?  Would we support them more if they had nearly made it to the semis? Will we get more upset about a handball against Ghana than about threats of rape and violence against pan-Africans on our home turf? Where is your Red Card Mr President?

The weekend after the final is also Mandela Day. On Madiba’s birthday on Sunday 18th July, let us all spend 67 minutes gathering for Peace. At churches across the peninsula, in streets across the city, let us celebrate Ubuntu and what it means to be human in Africa, where humanity emanated from. Let’s all blow our Vuvuzelas for Peace for a minute at 12 noon, to pay tribute to the values that Madiba represents. It’s not even 90 minutes to give, to build a greater and more unified team spirit than anything we have seen so far.

We are so proud of how the world is looking at South Africa right now. Our reputation is at an all time high. But there is a flip side. How the doubters would relish that: ‘We told you so. Africans can never really be civilised. They will always attack each other in the end. Blood will out.’ The choice is yours.

Feel it. It’s here.

Sam Pearce 

Sam Pearce is MD of the eMzantsi Carnival community-building project www.emzantsi.org.za and coordinator of the eMzantsi Ubuntu Coalition http://emuc.ilocals.info  Contact her at sam@emzantsi.org.za