Who was Emmanuel Sithole?
Emmanuel was a Mozambique native living in the Alexandra township in Johannesburg. On Saturday April 18 he was murdered by 4 men in broad daylight. He was stabbed and bludgeoned with a wrench for the singular reason that he was ‘foreign’. Photographer James Oatway recorded the brazen attack in its entirety, noting that the accused were very aware of his presence during the brutal two minute period, as Sithole lay on the ground pleading for his life. The four men showed no mercy, continuing their assault and then leaving Sithole for dead. He later passed away in a hospital just a few hundred metres away. In a sad twist of fate, the Daily Mail reports, the doctor at the hospital was absent from work being a foreigner himself and fearing the escalating violence that has been dubbed ‘xenophobic’.
Why should we know his name?
Violent attacks have intensified over the last three weeks in South Africa since Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini made a speech to a gathering of 10,000 people. Media reports quoted Zwelithini as saying ‘foreigners should pack their bags’ because they are ‘taking jobs from citizens’. He has since claimed that the media are to blame, as they poorly translated his speech which was directed only at illegal foreigners. Others have blamed a labour dispute back in March for the violence.
BBC.com reports that at least 7 people have been killed with many more injured and 5,000 people have become homeless in just three weeks. Another victim of mob violence, 41 year old Naume Garusa, was decapitated after leaving work, despite the fact that the Zimbabwean woman had been living and working in South Africa for 12 years.
Calls for the army to intervene were heeded by President Jacob Zuma, and the army has been deployed to KwaZulu-Natal.
Sithole has become a symbol of the wanton violence that is prevalent in parts of South Africa aimed particularly at immigrants and refugees. And yet the mainstream media in Australia have all but ignored the escalating bloodshed. This is not the first time anger and resentment has fuelled brutality in recent years in South Africa. While much of the world believes that the turbulence ended with apartheid, there have been ongoing incidences of violence over the years in South Africa. In 2008 similar anti-immigrant sentiment caused rioting and several deaths. It was similarly difficult to find references in our media to those events.
I have had cause to question the integrity of our national and local media outlets over the past several years and the stories they choose to provide their readers with. I have become accustomed to the mindless exaggeration, the disregard for truth and fact checking and the constancy of click bait articles which do little to inform and less to educate. I have yearned for real news and sought it from a myriad of sources because no individual source of news is credible enough to rely on singularly.
I’ve been increasingly disappointed in the once proud code of journalism and in those who exploit it. Particularly those that pass opinion off as fact. I’ve wondered to myself why are people not demanding more from those we rely on for information? Are we, the readers, so gullible? Or do we simply lack the critical thinking skills force us to appeal for better reporting? Worse, and most frightening of all, are publishers and reporters keeping us awash with frivolous stories about the Kardashians and Taylor Swift’s love life at the expense of more substantive material because that is what we prefer to read?
The truth is a tricky concept and a measure of thoroughness. There will be some who report only what sells, some who report only what is interesting to their own notion of what a reader wants to see, and some that will use their position as news providers for their own personal agenda. I think we can do better, and as the audience I think we should be demanding more from our news sources.
Tensions in South Africa continue to rise and still no mainstream news outlet have covered any of the emerging stories of survival, fear, hate or in some cases, kindness. When I googled ‘South Africa News’ the first page was full of cricket stories – only on the second page did I find mention of xenophobic violence. In a world where information is so easily transferable but sound bytes are progressively smaller, we the reader must be vigilant to get the full story and to assess its impact on the world we live in. We also deserve more from our media outlets than sanitised fluff pieces and inoffensive anecdotes.
Emannuel Sithole was a migrant from Mozambique who was savagely murdered in a series of racially charged attacks which have escalated almost to the point of martial law in a country Australia has always had a strong relationship with. This is something that deserves our attention.