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If it’s Xenophobic, Show Me who isn’t

In a typical African family, we grow up a lot closer to our extended family than in most cultures. In Africa we do not marry our cousins because we consider them family. A cousin is just like a sibling and that is my experience of the African way of life.

In this experience, I learned that as we grow older in this African family setup, we become our own people. The experience I had with some of my cousins and siblings when I was younger is not the same today, fourty years or so later. The warmth that I felt back then is no longer the same.

In my own family, I have cousins with whom there is no communication. I have siblings with whom communication is not as smooth as it used to be. That is a new reality I have discovered; a reality I am getting to grips with. The other reality I have come to experience both directly and indirectly, within and without my family, is the experience of family feuds. This is a reality in many families. Be they African or not. Family feuds remain a reality all over the world.

Man was created for a purpose and brought into a certain family for that purpose. The direction that his life takes depends on that purpose for which he was created. The attitude that he adopts towards his family and those that he meets is not static, it shifts according to the purpose of their being together.

I believe in life being a school and everyone and everything we connect with our teacher. The attitude and experience at a particular moment in our lives is highly dependent on the lessons that we are meant to learn one from another. I also believe firmly that in man there are qualities of the rock and elements of the mineral kingdom. I believe firmly that in man there are qualities of the plant and elements of the vegetable kingdom. I believe very strongly that in man there are qualities of animals and elements of the animal kingdom.

What does that tell me? It tells me that at any moment any human being regardless of their nature can display either of those qualities, when called upon to do so by the Creator. When man needs to be soft he will be soft. When man needs to cruel he will be cruel depending on the circumstances and the occasion. This is the reason why it is prescribed in the Holy Scriptures not to judge. We are not any different from those we seek to judge.

The attacks on foreign nationals in the country have led to a lot of debate around the attitude of our people and their sudden amnesia regarding their own passed experiences and the treatment they received from their fellow Africans. Some went as far as calling our people xenophobic and ungrateful. Some called our people wicked and cruel. But as a foreign national myself, I am against this belief. I am very strongly against the painting of my people in such a negative light. My people are humans and all over the world many family feuds are experienced the moment we begin to compete for resources. The moment one member of a family begins to achieve more than the other, jealousy and envy set in. This attitude has neither a cultural barrier nor a racial one. It is a human tendency to be envious and jealous, something that love alone can help overcome.

Everyone on this planet earth creates expectations and the moment we approach life with expectations, we become selfish in all of our actions. Everything one does at that moment is driven by the need to satisfy one’s personal needs first, most often at the detriment of the others. In other words, selfishness does not have a heart for family or friendship. It is me first, and the others after.

When an African migrant or a migrant from another country leaves his homeland in search for opportunities, he is not on a mission to become selfless. He wants to be successful at all costs and is willing to do anything just to succeed. He is also ready to accept whatever is thrown his way for the sake of his mission. Unless he is God, he cannot be expected to be selfless. For those that follow the teachings of Christ, His mission on earth was to preach love. In others words, to help humanity deal with this tendency to be envious, to approach life with expectations and to be selfish.

The Bible tells us in the book of Galatians 5:13-26: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

The South African who fled the oppression here and found refuge in another country was not there for the same motives. He was not looking to build wealth abroad. The South African who fled his homeland and found refuge in another African country was seeking a place safe for him to fight for freedom. The impressions he sent out were different from those of someone whose mission is to gather wealth at all costs.

The expectations with which we have approached our stay in South Africa are that which undoubtedly attract to us that which we experience today. Our people are humans and any human being will trigger either the characteristic of the mineral kingdom, the vegetable kingdom or the animal kingdom depending on the necessity of the lesson to be learned at that particular moment.

To call my people xenophobic and ungrateful therefore, is not only unreasonable but also totally ignorant of the purpose of life in general and one’s personal role in it.

One fact is true, and that is we are African people, God’s chosen people and this carries with it a unique responsibility towards ourselves and the rest of the world. We are expected to conduct ourselves in a manner that befits the character of God and when we veer off, something has to be done and that something can be pleasant as it can be unpleasant. How we feel and take it, depends on the expectations we have established of life.

Many of us want to carry with us everywhere we go the refugee and beggar mentality, even when we are not refugees. The time has therefore come to assume full responsibility for our role not only in improving our own lives but also the lives of those who share this space with us. When done in a spirit of Ubuntu, in love and service, a cooperative atmosphere will automatically be created, and consequently, peace and prosperity will be enjoyed by all.

I am Emmanuel. Nkosinathi. God with us.

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South Africa, my Garden of Eden

I grew up fond of the game of football and seldom returned home immediately after school because I wanted to enjoy the game with my friends. I enjoyed knocking the ball and observing it follow sometimes, the direction that I wanted. And to be honest, most often, it merely took a completely separate direction. Simply said, a football has its own movements that the kicker cannot always control.

Talking about the movements of the football, it is absolutely logical that whenever the ball goes up it must come down, unless it gets jammed somewhere on a tree, it must come down, no matter how high it gets. This up and down movement of the football is seldom given attention in our society. It is a natural law expressed in this movement of the football; a natural law of life.

The tendency in today’s society is to make believe that life is always meant to be on the ascendancy. In other words the moment we are brought into life, all we must expect from it is joy, pleasure, growth, good and enjoyment. As a result, the expectation of a university graduate is always a good paying job, an expensive car, a beautiful house, a loving spouse, beautiful children, a loving family, etc. This is the expectation we have for ourselves and many others in our database.

This expectation gives the misguided notion that when I have gotten a job, I have found happiness; when I have found a partner who satisfies me sexually, I have found happiness; when I have bought a car, I like, I have found happiness; when I have enjoyed good sex, I have found happiness; when I have secured a house I like, I have found happiness. In short the tendency is frequently to seek for happiness in the things of a temporary nature.

Some even go as far as belittling others when in that upper position, ignorant of the lesson in the up and down movements of the football. The most troubling part of this is the consideration within some of our religious beliefs and practices that these up and down movements are part of the work of evil forces. And so we find people praying day and night against these so-called forces of evil working to bring them down; working to force them into downward movements.

Our people have embraced modern living so much to the detriment of the most important laws of life; laws needed to make our journey on earth joyful. A football, thrown even on a plain surface, will have some up and down movements before eventually settling down. That is a fact. We see in the practice of sex how these up and down movements are needed to achieve the temporary enjoyment it brings.

We see in the running of a car, how the wheels have to make up and down movements for it to achieve its goal. Let’s look at a horse. It does not move without up and down movements. The airplane itself does not move without up and down movements. These up and down movements are a part of the journey and ways of life. What all this teaches therefore is that we cannot move forward in life without up and down movements.

What we see in our people today is the belief that the moment Apartheid has ended, life must be smooth in the country. What we see in our people is the belief that the moment there is a new leader in power, life must be rosy. What we see in our people is the belief that the moment there is change of employer, life must be jolly. What we see in our people is the belief that the moment there is change of partner, life must be smooth. And when God starts addressing that false belief, that false notion of life, we start calling it evil looking to blame someone for the pain that comes with it.

Why do some foreign national differ in strength of character from some of our people? Why does a foreign national come to South Africa and manages to make a living while locals struggle to do so? Why does a foreign national find opportunities in this country while locals battle to survive? To answer this question, one must consider the lessons from the football which has to experience up and down movements before eventually finding stability.

Only 25 years ago were our people physically liberated. Have our people yet gone through the necessary up and down movements needed to achieve maturity? One may argue that Apartheid was hard and cruel enough to help our people achieve that level of maturity but that is certainly not the case because struggles differ.

In the past the purpose was to free ourselves from the oppressors; to free ourselves physically. And now that it has been achieved, we need to free ourselves mentally too, something that can only be done by ourselves and within ourselves.

God puts a tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden and employs a tempter to assist in testing my mental freedom. If I resist the temptation, I am liberated but if I fail, I am held captive and will have to experience the down movements again and again until I learn to resist.

God does not employ words to direct us. He does not use names to instruct us. God uses the objects of his creation. He uses all realities. In other words, illegal substances such as drugs are not in themselves a problem in our society. These substances, which can be likened to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, are not a problem to society.

In reality, they are a means to guide man out of slavery; out of captivity. And how does man achieve freedom, it is through mental strength. One has got to be strong mentally in order to be free from all kinds of temptations. Without mental freedom, there is no hope of happiness.

Blaming it on illegal immigration or on drugs from foreigners is therefore a total disregard not only of the spirit of the Bible but also a misunderstanding of the consequences that the victims, Adam and Eve, and the tempter, the serpent faced as a result of their individual roles in disobeying God’s command. Adam blamed Eve; Eve blamed the serpent but that did not stop God from punishing them all. They were all guilty.

There is only one thing that will release us from our slumber and that is the experience of the realities of life through its up and down movements. The pain we are having to go through at the present moment is therefore necessary; it is needed because without it we will not achieve any form of progress in life.

The time has come therefore to stare reality in the face and understand that these things of a temporary nature, we put our hopes into, only bring enjoyment and pleasure that is temporary. True happiness starts when mental freedom has been achieved and for that, pain is needed; a different kind of pain.

That pain can last a minute; it can last an hour. That pain can last a day; it can last a week. That pain can last a month; it can last a year; that pain can last a decade; it can last a lifetime. It is up to me how I embrace it. If I embrace it as a necessity and follow the lesson attached to it, I move forward. If I embrace it as a curse and interfere with the lesson in it, I continue sinking. Like with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the choice is undeniably mine. Accusing the tempter is accusing God and this won’t clear up my problem but standing strong in the face of temptation will, assuredly.

I am Emmanuel. Nkosinathi. God with us.

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Charity driven by Ubuntu

The first thing I learned when I began to discover myself was that in man just like in every reality there are always two aspects: The mechanical and the engineering aspects. To put it simply one may say that, there are the receiving and the giving aspects in man. This discovery and knowledge came to me at a time when I was battling to determine the relevance of a new religious path I had joined. In that path, everything was depended of its leader including my own life’s experiences. I battled to make sense of this and immediately became rebellious against it. This rebellious attitude forced me to becoming very curious in search for truth until I ultimately discovered the truth that matched my needs.

Indeed, there are two aspects in man, the cause on the one side and effect on the other; the mechanical on the one and engineering aspect on the other. In order for me to receive, someone must give, and that is a fact about life; a fact on which the reality of life is based. Consequently, when I started working to start a non-profit organisation aiming to contribute something to life, the first thing that came to mind was the target market. Who was I going to target for this initiative? Who was I going to serve? The more I researched about needy causes in the country the more I felt overwhelmed.

There are so many needy people out there that I will not alone have the resources to aid them, no matter how much money was put in. I nevertheless decided to choose an area of focus, underprivileged children in Orange Farm, their caregivers and their communities. It made a lot of sense for me to start there as I felt the geographical location, the unemployment rate and other factors considered made a reasonable case to us it as a target area.

The more I tried to set myself up, hoping to partner with local organisations, the more challenging it became. At some point even to distribute second hand clothing became a challenge. I went to a local church aiming to utilise their premises as a base, it wasn’t simply granted. One would imagine that when you want to do something good, God would simply make everything run smooth for you. That certainly wasn’t the case with me and is not correct about life in general. I experienced more challenges trying to setup this organisation than I would have, had it been a profit making business.

But what I gathered from it in the end was that I was going about this the wrong way. I had just discovered a profound truth about the mechanical and engineering aspects of life and getting into this project, I had have experienced it myself. Put differently, there is an aspect of a man’s life that constitute his reality and when people find themselves in certain conditions it is not always a bad thing as we are made to believe. Someone is meant to benefit from that experience. There are undeniably many genuine cases of poverty in the country in the area I had chosen but it is how to resolve these challenges that counts most.

Many organisations exist on the ground with varied objectives, doing wonderful work; work that is certainly beneficial to the communities they serve. And as a result a culture of expectancy is developed; it is entrenched in many minds in that community, either from government or from the charity organisations.

When we place people in a position to become helpless it can in itself produce a problem not only to themselves but to society in general. It creates a culture of blame, and others become responsible for their own failings in life. Life is about balance. It is about rhythm. Life is about giving and taking and when one side becomes more or less participative than the other, it leads to disorder within oneself and without. And so, when in one community people settle for the life of charity, there is very little prospect of growth and expansion in their lives. Development must be tackled from within first before it is extended outside.

To start a charity organisation aimed at helping the poor can become in itself an enormous problem. The Bible tells us that man was created in God’s image and in His likeness, meaning that the creative powers of God are equally in man. This enables him to engineer his own life, his own destiny but for this to happen, he needs to become the master of his own life.

Living for charity creates the slave mentality. It creates the victim mentality. Living for charity creates a lack of responsibility; it produces the attitude of expectancy. We are constantly expecting to be given and when that does not happen, we start to blame others because it is their fault if things do not happen as expected. It is this attitude that makes it easier for people in protest actions to destroy properties. They see no value in them and there no sense of ownership.

The thought of all this led me to reengineering my organisation and confronting the issue of the needy a bit differently. What was needed therefore was an organisation that empowers people to become masters of their own circumstances, masters of their own destiny. In order to achieve this, one had to look at the cause of the current situation.

What makes man remains the experience he has of his life. A child that hasn’t been burned by fire will gain no knowledge of the danger that it poses. Nature teaches us that we can either learn from other people’s experiences or from our own. What people go through in their quotidian lives is not meant to destroy them. It teaches them something about themselves, with poverty and other social ills included in the experiences that they have to go through. After all it is only because of darkness that light is relevant. Without some of those experiences life would be flat and dull for many.

In trying to provide relief to the needy, many factors are to be taken into account including the necessary personal experiences that man must go through for his own growth. After all there is a purpose in every experience of life. To approach and take someone out of a necessary experience causes more harm than good.

Every so often the lesson in the experience is that one needs to learn to vary the angle from whence one constantly perceives things, to have a more unobstructed view. But this movement from one angle to the next does not happen naturally, it has to be forced upon us sometimes. That is why a thorough analysis of the conditions that lead people into poverty is always needed before starting a project such as this one.

There are indisputably enough resources in this country to deal with poverty but people need to feel a part of the team. They need to be made to be a part of the package of resources needed to address issues of poverty. The best way of doing this is by helping them to rediscover themselves. They need to rediscover their roots, their own beings as people created in the likeness of God. The cognisance of this makes a considerable difference.

African people are spiritual people, naturally. They are very spiritually active and what this means is that their actions produce a more immediate effect on their environment than others and particularly westerners. What this means also, is that when dealing with Africans care has to be taken not to hurt their inner core. The moment the inner core is affected, the rest of the being becomes problematic; it becomes conflicted. It is this conflict that extends to our surroundings. For an African man, conflicts are not created from without, they start from within and that is a fact.

Remedying problems affecting the lives of African people needs to start from within their beings. Who else can comprehend this fact better than an African? The experience of the past, in the Apartheid regime certainly contributed in damaging the being of the man in this land, to the point where he lost his sense of identity. To put it simply, many of us in this land do not recognize who we truly are. With the forced displacement that took place in this country, many are not quite sure of their true identity and even when they claim to be this or that, there is nothing to prove it to them.

How does one begin to assist people so deeply rooted in this life? How does one begin to support people whose sense of belonging, whose sense of identity has been so badly bruised? How does one begin to aid people who have derived comfort in merely expecting without the desire to contribute? How does one begin to help people who foster the culture of violence? How does one begin to help people who justify the life of a victim?

In mathematics we learn that two negatives do not lead to a positive, they merely increase the negative. Getting into this type of venture, care must be taken not to worsen the situation. An orphan whose only hope of survival is the community he lives in, is a genuine case. A disabled child whose parents cannot afford the day to day expenses connected with his condition is a genuine case, and there are many other genuine cases that warrant the intervention of charity organisations. But the problem is not in the intervention; the problem is in the type of intervention that is supplied.

A person whose sense of identity is bruised need more than food, he needs more than just shelter. The sad reality is that many of the communities in which intervention is needed are characterised by violence and all kinds of social ills and that is a sign deep rooted issues that demand a totally different remedy to tackle. The amount of violence prevalent in these communities is a sign of the intolerant nature of the society we live in; a society that has come short on love, tolerance and forgiveness.

Prior to the advent of the settlers on the continent, there was a principle that connected every African man living on this land, something that is more like a spirit, the proof of the spirituality of the man of Africa. And that is the spirit of Ubuntu, simply translated as “I am because you are.”What this Ubuntu also means to me is, “I am not you are”, a very mystical saying that makes man see himself in other. And when you see yourself in the other, you do nothing to the other than you would not do to yourself. In the Ubuntu philosophy one begins to see himself more and more in his fellowman and when that is achieved, love, tolerance and forgiveness that we need so much currently become part of the quotidian life. No wonder man lived peacefully with his surroundings, his neighbours back then because his life was directed by this divine principle.

The foundation for charity in African soil, therefore, has to be laid with the identity of man in mind and the spirit of Ubuntu as a base. This philosophy of Ubuntu is what gives man the strength and courage to face life and all its challenges. This is what activates the engineering part of his being, allowing him to be more of a master than a slave of his circumstances. After all that is what we require to overcome the challenges we are beset with in society today.

A man living by the principles of Ubuntu is an inspired man. He is creative in every aspect of his life and will never be overwhelmed by life’s challenges. This man knows that in him it is not him who lives but God, the source of all that exists, even those we consider evil.

I am Emmanuel. Nkosinathi. God with us.

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