Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung’s Beirut Office hosted a conference on social and transformative justice in conflict and post-conflict settings from the 13th – 16th of November, 2018.
Bringing together minds and experts on regions like Lebanon, Syria, East-Timor, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Columbia, the conference aimed to address the assumption that most conflicts are rooted in socio-economic causes that usually continue to be relevant during and after the conflict.
Social and transformative justice can be understood as notions of equal, fair, and just opportunities and relationships in a society, and using peacemaking as a response to social conflicts, respectively.
Presentations ranged from a focus on the links between war and capitalism, to local struggles for social and transformative justice in the regions mentioned above. “Shrinking spaces” in civil society were discussed, which relate to the reduction of social rights – for example, freedom of assembly becoming limited or withheld by restrictive states, or rights of self expression being refused by conservative ideologies in government. The economics of war and post-war economies was presented, and the conference was fittingly concluded with a discussion on the different concepts of civil conflict resolution.
An excursion to Tripoli’s International Fairgrounds provided a surreal lesson in the seemingly everlasting effects of conflict on society. The fairgrounds had been developed to host large-scale expositions, highlighting the confidence in Lebanon’s strategic position as a bridge to the Middle East. Although parts of the fairgrounds are used occasionally today, with the onset of Lebanon’s civil war, the vast complex, a concrete wonderland designed by Oscar Niemeyer, never made it to completion.
The Lebanon Pavilion at Tripoli’s International Fairgrounds
No African is a foreigner in Africa!
No African is a migrant in Africa!
Africa is where we all belong!
– Professor Achille Mbembe
South Africa has experienced brutal cycles of xenophobic violence. These have led to horrific murders, and to displacement of thousands of cross-border migrants, mostly from our own continent, Africa. Worse, they have led to fear and suspicion and terror. They have torn at the cloth of our constitutional inclusiveness, shredding and tattering it. The most recent wave began in late August 2019. There was a resurgence of anti-migrant protests, looting of foreign businesses and assaults: bodies stoned, beaten, burned and killed.(1)
There is a conspicuous race and class edge to this. The white cross-border migrant in an affluent haven like Sandton will fear no criminality beyond the ordinary. Five kilometres away, in Alexandra township, the black African cross-border migrant may be in fearful peril of her life, her livelihood.
Our leaders have responded by predominantly labelling xenophobia a crime. This is true. In an obvious sense. But also only partly true. The bigger, more horrendous truth is that it is crime with an edge – an anti-migrant crime, an anti-African-migrant crime. The typology evidences denialism.
As with our AIDS epidemic, denialism springs from shame. There, the shame of the virus, of infection, of its mode of transmission, was unwarranted. Here, the shame is rightful. Shame that we turn against our own, our African own.
Despite pleas from local civil society organisations, international and regional bodies, and other African governments, we continue to hush xenophobia with denialism. The migrant becomes a hyper-visible substitute for our failure to respond effectively to our history of subjugation. Yet, simultaneously, we erase the migrant from our understanding of violence, as xenophobia is subsumed into a narrative of rising crime.
Rather than a danger posed to particular, individual persons, xenophobia becomes lost in growing statistics of assaults, murders and robberies. Dismissing xenophobic violence as mere criminality
obscures the hard fact that we have failed adequately to address our country’s structural legacies of Othering and, with this, the socio-economic conditions that provide the seedbed for violence.
Migrants are blamed for the daily hardships experienced by poor South Africans. By refusing to articulate what they experience as xenophobic, we are left without the reflective means to
question the colonial histories and political failure that reinforce anti-immigrant attitudes, and that continue to structure our engagement with the Other within our country.
After the liberation struggle, followed by decades of working closely with the state’s coercive apparatus to govern Zimbabwe, violence has become a deeply ingrained part of the ZANU-PF’s managerial DNA.
Photo: A defiant Hopewell Chin’ono raises his fist as he is whisked away by the police after bail hearings on July 23, 2020 (The Africa Report)
Tensions have been growing steadily in Zimbabwe since 2019 as a confluence of crises (health, financial and political) rock Mnangagwa’s administration. Hundreds of soldiers and police officers were deployed to major cities in late July 2020 ahead of a planned march called by the president of opposition Transform Zimbabwe party Jacob Ngarivhume, to draw attention to the country’s worsening economic situation. The security forces shut down shops and arrested activists while President Mnangagwa and ZANU-PF spokesman Patrick Chinamasa held press conferences to warn that all those who dared take to the streets would be dealt with harshly. This event was just an extra layer of unrest in an already tough season of strikes and protests organised by various trade unions.
A detailed analysis on the Zimbabwean government’s recent authoritarian clampdown on dissent: