Jean-Jacques Cornish

Africa in xenophobic pincer grip

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?

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.