The borders are everywhere, especially for women. Audre Lorde and Gloria Anzaldua taught that lesson, the borders are not only geographically everywhere, but they are also everywhere in our bodies, in our selves. Every act of violence is another border establishment. Every act of border is another act of violence. Let’s talk about fear, violence, specters, justice.
A year ago, xenophobic pogroms swept across and dug into South Africa, dug into the landscape, dug into the consciousness, and some want to know if that violence dug into the very fabric of the country. Ramaphosaville, in the East Rand, was one of the places named, a place that “exploded into horrific and shameful violence”. “Places like Alexandra, Ramaphosaville and Khayelitsha have become the dumping grounds of the marginalised and alienated. Daily, poor people eke out an existence in the insalubrious warrens of congested squatter camps or the dilapidated prison-like hostels. These environs subject people to the most degrading conditions, resulting in poor fight against poor.”
And today? “I still live in fear” In Ramaphosaville, both the fear and anger, and the potential for more violence, do more than linger. They simmer: ““What do you do if people come and tell you they have more rights than you because you are a foreigner? I choose to give them what they want to save my life. “I still live in fear.”" But who is articulated in this statement? Miro Mavila and Benet Oguda, Mozambican nationals, express their fear of South African violence, Prince Mofokeng, a South African national, expresses his fear of living in “a little Maputo”.
This is not a case of the poors against the poors, although certainly class and poverty have been stirred into the pot. It is a case of the affect of border, the ways in which border breeds and intensifies the logic of fear as an alibi for `justifiable’ homicide, torture, violence. And patriarchy. Even in this article, only men are interviewed. Women? Silently walking away, carrying the daily water, carrying the remains of the day. Look at the picture that accompanies the article; what do you see: http://www.mg.co.za/photos/articles/original/ramaphosaville.jpg
“I still live in fear”. The South African government announced it is scrapping visas for Zimbabweans, in effect more or less opening the border. This should be good news, right? Yes and no. As long as the border exists, fear exists: “The news of the scrapping of visas for Zimbabweans entering South Africa has been received with mixed feelings by citizens of the two countries. Many of those from north of the Limpopo gave a sigh of relief with regard to the difficulties they had endured over the years whenever they wanted to cross the border into South Africa. On the other hand, many people in South Africa now fear a new influx of refugees who may not have entered the country because of the very restrictions that have just been lifted. This has heightened fears of the revival of the xenophobic attacks experienced last May when South African mobs turned on their neighbours, killing many.” Previously, the South African immigration policy towards Zimbabweans was “arguably the toughest visa regime in post-colonial Africa, especially between countries that were not at war.” It also was good business for those working the border, 5000 crossing legally every day and who knows how many crossing through `informal’ entry points: “a well-oiled corruption system has reportedly developed at the Beitbridge border, the main beneficiaries being the low-paid officials on both sides of the border who have to “assist” desperate Zimbabweans for a fee.”
What never gets mentioned, again? Women. Zimbabwean women are the principal cross border traders at Beitbridge. Zimbabwean women have suffered much of the greatest violence, State and `informal sector’, in Musina, in Lindela. When do women enter into the border picture? As long as borders define nation, define citizenship, define `the human’, that human will be man. Watch closely the agreements between the governments of South Africa and Zimbabwe over the next months, concerning the rights of migrant and immigrant populations.
But the border is not only between nations, it’s across nations. Xenophobic violence is not only `civilian’. It’s also State. A year ago, agents of State came into Postville, Iowa, and `swept’ the meatpacking plants of its `dangerous elements’, underpaid, abused workers without legal documents. Real danger there, I tell you. This week, 20 of those workers received U Visas: “Twenty undocumented workers arrested a year ago at a meatpacking plant have received visas through a law that protects victims of crime, reports La Opinión. The immigrants arrested last year at Agriprocessors Inc. received U visas from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), which allow them to stay and work legally in the country for four years. In their third year, they may apply for permanent residence. “A government agency is admitting that these women and children have been subjected to physical and emotional harm by Agriprocessors,” said attorney Sonia Parras-Konrad. “These people have been exploited, assaulted, humiliated, verbally and emotionally abused by this employer.””
Women and children have been subjected to harm by their employers and then by the State. Here are the faces of menace and danger. Look closely. What do you see: http://www.impre.com/foto/home.php?article=125069&photo=66344
They are still afraid. The borders are not the peripheries nor are they the margins. They are the core … of the nation and of every resident, and they define women as other-than-human and not worth discussing or representing. Borders must be opened, removed, and completely transformed. Until then, I still live in fear.
Dan Moshenberg, email@example.com