African artistes keep silent as Kwazulu-Natal Kingdom, scene of recent xenophobic attacks, hosts MTVBase Awards

Rappers Jesse Jagz and MI perform on stage at the Afropolitan Vibes at Freedom Park, Lagos on April 17, 2015. Photo by Lolade Adewuyi

Rappers Jesse Jagz and MI perform on stage at the Afropolitan Vibes at Freedom Park, Lagos on April 17, 2015. Photo by Lolade Adewuyi

In April 2015, the King of Zulu Land made a speech that denounced immigrants to South Africa as taking jobs from locals.

This speech increased tensions between locals and foreigners which led to the killing of more than 50 immigrants, the looting of their shops and destruction of their livelihood in the townships around Durban, the coastal Indian Ocean city that is known for its pristine beaches and eclectic mix of races.

The xenophobic violence spread across the country to as far as the commercial capital Johannesburg with foreigners needing to stay in shelters in order to secure their lives.

All over the continent, we watched our TV screens in shock as black people descended on other black people with knobkerries, stones and knives.

It was like a scene out of Phillip Saville’s 1987 ‘Mandela’ movie – this time, instead of white policemen chasing down blacks in townships, it was black citizens hunting down and destroying businesses and homes owned by black immigrants.

The actions of this hate-filled group led to international uproar and the threat of sanctions against South African businesses as well as the threat to report King Goodwill Zwelithini to the International Criminal Court.

Many artistes, singers and actors spoke out against the killings which threatened the relations of South Africa with their neighbours whose citizens were killed.

Continental music channel MTVBase Africa is set to hold its fifth Africa Music Awards (MAMAs) in Durban on July 18, less than five months since those attacks on African immigrants.

The Awards, the second time in the city, are being supported by the Kwazulu Kingdom and would showcase the culture of the Zulus and their King.

Yet no artiste has spoken about the horrors of the recent past.

Have we suddenly forgotten the outrage of April and the way Africans were treated by the Zulu people?

What kind of conscience do we have as a people, as a race, as a continent?

Major artistes like 2Face Idibia, Diamond Platinumz, Davido, Yemi Alade and Wizkid are all billed to perform at this event that is supposed to celebrate African music, culture and unity in a land that recently consumed African migrants without apology.

With music increasingly uniting the continent – we have seen an increase in collaboration between artistes across the continent like never before – yet musicians are not doing enough to pass the message that they stand up against hate.

It is not enough for Mafikizolo to enter the studio with MayD and sing “Happiness”, they must also speak out against the perpetrators of sorrow.

Our big time music acts need to take a stand against Durban’s playing host to the awards this year otherwise they would be guilty of being part of the crime against other Africans.

While the African acts have kept quiet, US artistes Ne-Yo, Jhene Aiko, Young Thug and host comedian Anthony Anderson have also not seemed perturbed by the recent history of the city.

With the recent public denouncement of prejudice by American billionaire Donald Trump, we know that this would not have happened if it was in the West.

However, this is Africa where its people are not worth much to the world.

To attend the awards on July 18 is to thumb up the hate of the Kwazulu king and a sod off to every African immigrant who lived through weeks of agony and fear for their lives in the heady days of April on the streets of Durban.

African artistes must stand up against hate, unfortunately they are failing.

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