Sunday, May 18, 2008

Xenophobia rears its ugly head

I got this from the Thought Leader. I'm not sure if Kenya's Transport minister Ali Mwakwere 'makwerekwere' has any relation to this animal. I first heard it early from a friend who once lived in Windhoek, Namibia, but had relocated back to the country. He says everywhere he went he was referred to as 'kwerekwere'.

On makwerekwere…

Submitted by Boitumelo Magolego

The inside cover of my Oxford English dictionary features a word with which I have become all too familiar: the word is kwerekwere.
(It may be more familiar to you with one of its vernacular language–dependant prefixes prepended — the Sotho singular being le– and plural ma–, the Nguni singular being i– and plural ama–). This word is used to refer to black (in the morphological sense) Africans who are not South Africans — South African being defined as Sotho, Nguni, Venda and Tsonga ethnic groups (by that measure the Swazis, Batswana, etc. would be South African?). This word has a very negative sting to it and is often used with contempt. From what I gather it has undertones which speak of how black Africans are believed to be sub–human, too dark and have a pungent smell. Two other words also used in this regard are grigamba and kom–ver (as in the Afrikaans kom van ver) — each prepended with the relevant prefix.

Even though these words seem new to some people, I have been hearing them as far back as I can remember. My grandparents also say that these words have been in use for as long as they can remember. What’s my point? The contempt with which South Africans regard black African foreigners is not a post–democracy phenomenon. The question which everyone has been asking since the May 12 Alexandra killings is: What has made South Africans behave like this? What has brought about all this anger and rage? To me a more relevant question is: What was the trigger event which resulted in the outpouring of all this pent–up contempt?

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