Pretoria (The Southern African Times) – The African Diaspora Forum (ADF) has expressed dismay over the hatred and insults hurled at newly elected City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor Jolidee Matongo, particularly on Twitter, based on his revelation that he was born of a migrant father from Zimbabwe.
“We, the African Diaspora Forum, welcome the election of Councillor Jolidee Matongo as the Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg. We look forward to working with him and having a mutual work relationship in the area of inclusivity and social cohesion on the remaining days of his term in office,” ADF spokesperson Amir Sheikh told African News Agency in Johannesburg.
“The executive mayor is a natural born South African, born in the cradle of the anti-apartheid struggle, a Sowetan, eligible to occupy any political seat. Elected unopposed as the executive mayor of the most meticulous city on the continent, he needs our collective support and prayers, and not our uncalled-for attacks of negativity.”
Sheikh said the hot topic of immigration in South Africa has heralded the emergence of “right-wing, anti-immigrant leaders and political parties”.
No one chooses where he is born, destiny determines who you will be in life, immigration, more than ever in South Africa, is creating more political debate and engagements, and the emergence of right-wing, anti-immigrants leaders and political parties is more worrying,” said Sheikh.
“Migration is today perceived as negative. Racialisation, Afrophobia and xenophobia abounds. Migrants are perceived as criminals, drug addicts and traffickers, and are blamed for all societal ills in the country, painting a very ugly and misleading picture of what immigrants have done for South Africa in the past and present.”
He said, unfortunately, there is a vast majority of South Africans who “dislike” their fellow African brothers and sisters.
“If the executive mayor elected was a white or Indian South African, there wouldn’t have been any discussions or debates on his race, nationality or origin. This clearly shows an inferiority complex, disliking anything that is black,” said Sheikh.
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, Ngqabutho Mabhena, said it was unfortunate that Matongo faced hatred for having a link to South Africa’s northern neighbour.
“We think those people who are saying he is not qualified to be mayor are not members of the African National Congress. The members of ANC in Johannesburg saw it fit that he should be the executive mayor, not based on his origins but based on his commitment to advance the national democratic revolution,” said Mabhena.
“There are those (on social media) who are being xenophobic. Mayor Matongo is a South African who should be judged based on his performance as the Executive Mayor of Johannesburg, not based on where his father came from.
’’We have previously had leaders like the late Thomas Titus Nkobi who was born in Zimbabwe, in Bulilima, but became the treasurer-general of the ANC. We have other leaders that came into South Africa and played a revolutionary role, just as the Mayor Matongo has done.”
Nkobi served as an MP in South Africa’s first democratic National Assembly. In 2004, Nkobi was posthumously awarded the Order of Luthuli in Gold for his role in the struggle against apartheid. The Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality also renamed South Park Cemetery in Boksburg as the Thomas Titus Nkobi Memorial Park.
The ANC in Johannesburg has also lashed out at detractors of Matongo on social media, accusing them of having strong financial backers to tarnish the image of the first citizen of the city.
Outraged ANC regional secretary Dada Morero was reacting to a campaign, “#WeRejectMayorOfJHB”, which was circulated on social media, saying it was a malicious Afrophobic campaign against Matongo.
“This hashtag is generally led by faceless people and therefore does not represent the people of Johannesburg. Based on our investigation, these are politically aligned, paid-up tweets to purport aspersions on the executive mayor through propaganda that seeks to mislead society and characterise the executive mayor as a foreigner in his motherland.
“The executive mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Jolidee Matongo, is a 46-year-old born and bred in Dube, Soweto, South African. He commenced his schooling career at Sizanani Primary School, where his political activism started, ignited by a love for justice, opposed to the fascist apartheid regime,” Morero said.
He said his party was calling on public servants, the residents of Joburg and all sectors of society to work with the appointed mayoral committee led by Matongo to deliver services and better the lives of the people in the city.