Mozambican national killed in xenophobic attack, Alexandra Township, South Africa - 18 Apr 2015ENCA

SOURCE – The Murder of Emmanuel Sithole

I had decided not to write about Xenophobia. I have heard and seen a lot on the subject in the media, on social media forums, at every get together and in every conversation. I had shed my tears at the horrific images doing the rounds on Facebook but I was still not going to write about it. My heart was sore but I thought all that needed to be said had been said. At that was how I felt until Emmanuel Sithole was murdered in Alexandria.

Emmanuel Sithole, a Mozambiquan national, was murdered in what must be the most well documented crime in a long time. According to Times Live, he was murdered because he was a foreign national and he died with three armbands on his wrist that read “United for Bafana.” The heart-breaking irony.

His death was tragic and unnecessary but it’s not the mere fact of his death that moved me to write. It is the fact that a team of journalists, faced with a man being murdered, chose to take photos first and then help later. There are photos of every stage of the murder, from the repeated bashing with a wrench to the photos of Emanuel collapsing in the gutter as he tried to crawl away. My heart and mind cannot accept the assertion that the only thing a reasonable bystander could have done at this time, was take photos.

I know that it’s easy to be an armchair critic. It’s easy to perform a post mortem of another’s actions and to judge them harshly. I know that a reasoned perspective is not always a luxury one can afford in life’s situations. But when I see those last two photos of Emmanuel’s life… bloodied, open gash on his chest, face grimacing in pain and cell phone in hand, I cannot believe that someone paused to take a photo or two or three before helping him.

It reminds me a little of one of my half sisters. She loves selfies. She was involved in a brutal car accident that left her with a bloody head and terrible whiplash. The first thing she did after the accident was take a selfie of herself….blood and all.

On 702 Talk Radio, the photographer defended himself by saying the anger that has been directed towards him should be directed towards the attackers.

After listening to his defence of his actions, one is inclined to believe that there is an inability to comprehend that there are two guilty parties in a crime of any sort, including xenophobia. The crime committed by the murderer and the crime committed by the ones who watch it happen and do nothing to stop it.

One can’t help but feel the rules of a healthy society have been forgotten by some. Rules like I am my brother’s keeper; I must act reasonably at all times; an attack on one is an attack on all of us; Ubuntu. No matter how much I try, I cannot see the reasonableness in taking a photo while a man; a husband; a father; a son; a human dies. It is the human imperative to try our hardest to save another’s life.

Where morality fails, there is always the law. The “reasonable man test,” discussed ad nauseum during the Oscar Pistorius trial, is used to determine whether a person acted unreasonably negligently resulting in loss to another. Would a reasonable person have foreseen that taking photos of a man with his chest cut open instead of helping immediately might result in his death? If so, could any step have been taken to try and prevent the loss or death in this case?

I would like to believe that something more reasonable could have been done to try and save Emmanuel but we will never know because a photo was taken instead. The photographer is merely a metaphor for the response to xenophobia by some authorities and some communities. Help came eventually, but the price had already been paid.

I thank the community in Mamelodi who made a strong statement about xenophobia: “there will no xenophobia here.” They stated unequivocally that they were prepared to fight for the safety of their foreign neighbours. I thank the brave South Africans who stood at street corners in their communities to prevent the looting of foreign shops and beat back the attackers. I thank the two Maritzburg taxi drivers who stepped in when a man wielding a spanner attempted to attack two Congolese men. “There is no room for xenophobia in Howick,” they said. I thank these and many other unsung heroes who stood for humanity when xenophobia reared its ugly head.