In our series of letters from African journalists, writer and novelist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani considers South Africa’s identity within Africa.
Over the past few weeks, some South Africans seem to have been in keen competition to displace Africa’s militant Islamist groups Boko Haram and al-Shabab from international headlines and become the latest African murder sensation.
I would not be surprised if a new social media campaign soon starts making the rounds: “I am a South African, not a xenophobe.”
Tough luck. It will probably take a while for the country to restore its image after last month’s brutal onslaught against foreigners left at least seven people dead, about 5,000 homeless and the livelihoods of many more destroyed after foreign-owned shops were looted and torched.
I have often referred to South Africa as a genetically modified African country. It is in Africa but not really quite like the rest of us.
Travelling to South Africa often feels like a visit to the West. If a vacation across the Atlantic was proving too much bother, you could always go there.
Staff at the country’s international airports come across as simply doing their jobs rather than looking for a new way to make your life miserable.
The malls stock many of the world’s favourite brand names.
You can describe the length of your road journeys in miles and kilometres rather than in hours and days because the highways are smooth and broad and brightly lit.
The climate gives your complexion a fresh glow that lets everyone back home in Nigeria know at first sight that you have just been away.
And South Africa is probably the only country in Africa that can boast a barrage of desperate migrants from Nigeria, similar to the UK and US.
Church visa scam
Not long ago when my church announced that the choir would be travelling from Nigeria to participate in a music festival taking place in South Africa, the music department suddenly experienced an influx of never-seen-before members.
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani:
“South Africa remained an inspiration to the rest of Africa. White people or no white people, it was an African country; it was an African star”