Former Special Assistant to the President for Policy and Project Implementation and Monitoring Jack Kalala says it is hypocritical to condemn UNZA students for protesting against xenophobic attacks in South African because that is a normal human reaction to provocation.

And Kalala says it is high time the African Union intervened to prevent any further loss of life.

In an interview, Kalala commended UNZA students for taking a stance against xenophobic attacks, noting that South African leaders had not done much to pacify their angry citizens.

“I heard some people criticizing UNZA students saying that their behaviour was unruly, I think that’s hypocritical. It’s a normal human reaction when attacked. And what should be appreciated and understood is that this thing has not happened for the first time and leaders in South Africa have been involved right from the top. The President himself before the election made a statement that after the elections, they would sort out those foreigners who were in South Africa illegally and close their businesses. So it has been incited by the leaders. Just two days ago, a deputy minister was on record justifying the attacks. And what do they expect from other nationals or other countries, and especially given the fact that the other African countries contributed a lot to the liberation of South Africa and [only] to be treated like that? It’s not fair,” Kalala said.

And Kalala said it was high time African leaders stopped sitting idle and tackled the problem.

“So the reaction is normal. And then, it sends a message to the leaders to do something about it because leaders in Africa have just been sitting idle while this problem has been shimmering in South Africa. They have been doing nothing at AU level [and] at national levels of the countries affected. They have not engaged the South African government to deal with this problem. And what do you expect from the people? It’s like what happened during the second world war to say ‘no, what is happening in Germany against the Jews and so on and against neighboring countries is okay’. So other European countries should just sit and watch by and not react? No, they reacted,” Kalala said.

“It’s a mark of lack of political and economic leadership in South Africa and on the African continent because the South African leaders have failed to address the problem of the black South Africans there [both] economically and politically. Up to now, the economy in South Africa is in the hands of whites. Had we not had the whites developing the economy there in South Africa, that country’s economy was going to be like any other African country. The economy is strong because of the development that the whites did there. When the Africans came into power, they have failed to address the imbalance. Now, Africans are going to South Africa because African leaders in their respective countries have failed to develop the country.”

He noted that nationals of other African countries were ill treated in South Africa because they were considered as beggars.

“The reception of Africans from other countries in South Africa is the way it is because they are being considered as poor people or as beggars. If other African countries were developed just the way South Africa was developed, they would be treated in the same manner. So it’s a failure by African leaders that is creating that problem and it’s deeper than what meets the eye. There is need for African leaders to address this problem objectively. Reacting saying ‘no, we condemn those people attacking South African businesses’ is wrong. It’s a normal human reaction and it is not the first time that it has happened. Africans and Zambians, in particular, rose in solidarity with South Africans because of the way Zambians were being treated there in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Northern, and Southern Rhodesia that time and in Namibia. There were demonstrations all over. Why not today?” Kalala asked.

And Kalala said South Africans should stop living under the impression that they can survive independent of any other African country.

“[The protests] sent a message that South Africans should not consider themselves as superior. They are also dependent on other African countries. The South Africans think that other Africans are parasites but we have South African companies that are making a lot of money in other African countries. And that money, the profits are going back to South Africa and South Africans are benefiting from those profits. South African goods are finding market in other countries. The agricultural produce, we are getting Oranges from South Africa. Who is benefiting? Who is working in those companies that are producing those goods? It is the South Africans. I think this has sent a big lesson to them and need a vigorous action so that the South African leaders sit down and realize that they are not indispensable and that they are also dependent on other African countries, otherwise the economy in South Africa will collapse,” said Kalala.

“And now this has happened. What do you expect people to do? To just sit and say ‘no, it’s normal that people should burn and kill each other and then people should meet at the AU or UN meeting and say ‘global village and so on.’ That’s nonsense. The trucks are coming from South Africa and who is paying for these roads? It’s the Zambian taxpayers. So, now as Zambians individually and collectively, we should stand up and start planning to actively participate in our economy. And leaders should also act on that. Let Zambians own big shops and big companies so that we are not entirely dependent on foreign investment.”