OPINION: Christmas can be vicious on the poor

If I survive this cruel life I will be one of thousands of amagoduka (migrant workers) making their way home to the Eastern Cape this festive season.

God-willing, I will be visiting all my relatives, eating and laughing daily with some of them.

Going home to the EC is always a pleasure as I will visit initiation schools, enjoy imigidi and feast on free meat, booze and other luxuries.

But going home also has its risks due to the many drivers who do not respect the rules of the road. And as I drive 1000 km out of Cape Town to my poor province, a part of my heart will stay in Cape Town.

I will be leaving behind people who, I’m pretty sure, won’t be able to enjoy Christmas with their loved ones.

For the past two months I have had to make my way to the office dodging scores of people sleeping on the hard streets of the area around Greenmarket Square in the city centre. The hundreds of asylum-seekers and refugees have been camping outside because they are not happy with us, South Africans, and are pleading with the United Nations to resettle them elsewhere.

It pains me to see women and children on the streets on a rainy day. Disturbing to see that we couldn’t care less about them. Annoying are the remarks we make about them and their being in the country.

Disgusting are those who refuse to help them.

When they were removed from where they were originally camping, outside the offices of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) at the Waldorf Arcade, lobby groups priests, pastors, human rights groups and many of us condemned law enforcement.

But, because I know that prayer works, I am praying for change in our minds. I pray for us to love each other. I pray for tolerance of each other. But more importantly I pray for sanity to prevail to see the asylum-seekers and refugees going back home immediately.

I send the prayer above for them to know that we have never been a land of milk and honey. We had and still have our own troubles. They should know that mentally we are troubled. We have never healed from the past and will not heal today, tomorrow or in two years to come.

While I don’t want to come across as being ignorant or arrogant, I believe that if they don’t see any good in us or our country, it’s probably best for them to leave.

I pray that they also open their minds to understanding that whatever violence they think is directed at them, is not so.

My country is a violent country. They have seen how women and children of this country are being killed and raped, hijacked. It is depressing to see kids and their mothers sleeping outside, on the streets.

I think we should all be concerned when human beings are treated as dirt or treat themselves as such.

I will be honest. I am excited to home at the end of the year. I am excited that I will be part of seeing boys leaving home to undergo ulwaluko (the traditional rite of passage to manhood).

But going home leaving people on the streets leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. May my prayers be answered. But I know His ear is not far from hearing our demands and needs. Makubenjalo.