How would Nobel Laureate and Nigeria’s treasure, Prof. Wole Soyinka, advise a tourist, set to visit a country of rabid xenophobes?
Judging by his poem, ‘Death in the Dawn’, he probably would start:
“Tourist, you must set forth/At dawn/… The right foot for joy, the left, dread/And the mother prayed Child/May you never walk/When the road waits, famished”!
That prayer is taken from a Yoruba superstitious-powered belief, which holds that the road at some time is thirsty for blood; and may one never travel at such precarious times!
For that, as part of that poem dutifully records, you even make some sacrifice, or some caring family members on your behalf, for your journey to be when the road is sated, and you come back safe from your journey.
But how does this prayer even hold, for a tourist bound for a xenophobia country, where the natives always prime themselves for foreign blood — and foreign shops for prime looting?
That is the unflattering image South Africa paints with its xenophobic thunder, and its periodic volcano. Though it now consumes foreign blood, limbs and sweat, eventually it will consume South Africa itself.
Take tourism. That market is dependent on a relay of foreign visitors come to feel the pulse of your country, taste its flora and fauna, sample its cuisine and drink in its landscape.
But no matter how beautiful your country might be, how do you convince visitors — tourists — to come, when you make a manic show as unrepentant and unapologetic xenophobes, badgering and slaying foreigners in your midst, sacking their shops, looting their sweat?
That is the sorry pass South Africa is wedging itself but no one seems to care.
True, President Cyril Ramaphosa has decried xenophobia, which is fine. But the body language of many in the Ramaphosa cabinet has been, at best, mixed: if not condoning then regrettably justifying — which is quite awry, for a state that benefited from huge foreign support to spring itself from apartheid White minority rule.
But this show of barbarism would hurt South Africa most in the long run. Traditionally, South Africa has a strong tourism market — exotic parks, game reserves, water falls, not to talk of other post-apartheid historic troves like the Mandela centre.
But with an increasing xenophobic image, who in his right sense would travel to South Africa? And if the tourism sector continues to contract, where would be the tourism aspect, of the so-called jobs, be — after the hated foreigners had all been killed, for taking natives’ job away?
The xenophobe kills his tourism market — how sweet!
Weep not for South Africa, the country that in Nelson Mandela produced the finest of humanity but also cancelled that out that trove with the very dregs in xenophobes!
A tourist in xenophobes’ country! How sweet!