by Jean-Jacques Cornish
Xenophobia is gripping Africa in a north-south pincer movement with leaders hamstrung on dealing with it honestly.
The brutal attacks on foreigners in South Africa – mainly from neighbouring states – has left at least seven people dead and displaced five thousand .
It is sadly reminiscent of the violence seven years ago that caused 62 fatalities.
Yet when six people died in attacks on foreign-owned shops earlier this year, government refused to acknowledge it as such, insisting it was criminality.
This time it has dispensed with such equivocation.
President Jacob Zuma has spoken out daily against the violence and virtually every member of Cabinet has made his or her rejection of its clear.
But it has taken the giant National Union of Metalworkers, now in the enemy camp, to make the point that government must take responsibility the root causes of the frustration giving rise to the violence.
NUMSA cites service delivery failure and government’s inability to produce a life-changing post-apartheid dividend for the majority of its citizens.
Leaving daily from ports in north Africa – mainly ungovernable Libya – are overcrowded, unseaworthy boats hoping to make landfall on the closest piece Europe.
Last weekend, an estimated 800 people drowned in the largest tragedy sparked by this desperate exodus. Largest, indeed, but one of hundreds of sinkings that have left thousands dead.
EU leaders decided at an emergency summit in Brussels on Thursday to triple the amount spent on rescuing those in peril on the Mediterranean.
They also resolved to destroy the boats of these people traffickers.
Their decisions got the headlines they were seeking.
They also have transformed the pressing social, humanitarian and political posers into issues of criminality that can be more decisively dealt with.
There is no certainty over how long the rescue operations will persist.
And precious little is given about the pilot programmme to resettle the refugees who have risked their lives to find better, more peaceful and freer lives in Europe.
Most importantly the summit did not address the question of why the migrants are forced to brave the dangerous sea because legitimate routes into Europe are closed.
Is there a leader courageous or perhaps foolish enough to brave the xenophobic wrath of his voters to attempt an answer?