Best and Worst

The xenophobic violence continues in and around Cape Town and further afield. And it's bringing out both the best and the worst in people.

I was listening to a local talk radio station on the way in to work. One SMS said "send these foreigners home - we don't need them here". But an email from 14-year-old Clare said "how can I help?". And then there's 7-year-old Sarah.

Last winter Sarah phoned in offering her allowance to buy blankets for people who were freezing. She phoned in again this morning, saying she was angry because people had to run away, and can she please give more blankets? Of course she can!

She's mobilizing others to help her make a difference.

Perhaps sharing our country's resources and already-strained government help is not everyone's idea of a good thing. Perhaps there's truth to the fact that South Africa has become the flee-to country when things in your own land turn too bad to stay. But there's a reason SA has become this - and until now it's lain in the attitude of the people, a willingness to embrace or at the very least tolerate those seeking refuge, allowing them to make a life here and contribute to both society and the economy.

It's such a complicated situation though. 20,000 displaced in Cape Town means that this city has been groaning under the weight of supporting that number - and more. Many are leaving, preferring to deal with civil war at home than their neighbours turning on them here. In that sense, "they've" won - the "they" that want them out. But is it really going to help the locals when they're gone? Is the government going to get off it's butt and do more for them? I doubt it. The Cape Town mayor says central government has been simply unreachable, other than the Safety & Security minister who has done all he can to open up military bases for refuge. The government simply doesn't care - or chooses to ignore these petty struggles of the common man.

Or perhaps, as has been hinted, there's a more sinister agenda at work that the government has bought into...

Whatever the background causes are, this one's bringing out strong emotions and reactions. Whether it's the best or the worst.