Saturday, 18 April 2020


In China, some blacks have been evicted from their rented dwellings, denied entry into restaurants, hospitals and other places. African ambassadors have protested over the racial tensions, saying the Chinese government should control some of its citizens that strongly believe that coronavirus is spread by black people. The southern industrial city of Gaungzhou, a popular place visited by thousands of African entrepernuers per year, has become the epicenter of racial tensions. It’s unclear if there have been any Zimbabweans caught up in these issues. Ms. Samantha Sibanda, a Zimbabwean teacher now living in Beijing, says not all conflicts being displayed on social media and other platforms are racially motivated as some blacks from Africa are resisting being tested for COVID-19, fearing that they may be part of research being conducted to find a coronavirus vaccine. VOA Zimbabwe Service’s Gibbs Dube speaks with Sibanda on this and other issues.

Gibbs Dube (GD): Samantha, we’ve seen that there are these reports of racism and, you know, some kind of, you know, the violation of some black’s rights in China. What is going on as far as you are concerned?

Samantha (SS): It's a very complicated issue that you're talking about, and we have to actually look at it in the different angles for us to be able to get the answer that we want. I know social media has taken this up and just kind of blown it out of proportion, really. That's, that's my thought and that's my opinion. I think the situation has really really been blown out of proportion. And it's not supposed to be that way, I think. And I feel people are really lacking context on this issue. It's just like, know when you see something posted on Facebook, before you share it, you also put your comments and stuff and you share.

The next person takes it in their own way and stuff like that. And I think this is what's been happening. And the other thing that I want to say is if we, if we kind of look at what's been going on, I think the world has been angry with China because of the coronavirus. Remember when it started, people were also saying it was a Chinese virus, it came from China. And so people already had that anger in them and all they didn't inform us. So they did, they did do this, and when the issue of Africans came in, it was also more like you know, seeing some other stuff. If you want to look at Africans themselves, you know in the previous weeks we had these French doctors who have been saying they want to test this (vaccine) on Africans.

GD: So, are you saying that the Africans were actually scared about, you know…

SS: The Africans in their heads, it’s because of what they were seeing, that the French doctors are saying they want to test (vaccines) on Africans and so the Chinese wanted to test (vaccines on) the Africans, in their heads, they were like, hello, are we being guinea pigs now? So there was fear of, you know, that based on what they were hearing. And also on the other hand…just to cut things short, this was a misunderstanding that people blew out of proportion.

GD: But we've been seeing on social media, some people like there's this lady who was going to seek some kind of help from the hospital when … she looked pregnant, but then was turned away. So then, we’ve got other issues where we see some Africans on the streets, you know all those kind of things. Can you call that fiction or it’s happening, right?

SS: That's what I'm saying, That you have to use your eyes, ou know, you have to use lenses that are wide open. I will also want to tell people that, I mean, the issues of racial discrimination or the issues of Africans being not treated well in China, these are issues that have been going on for years. There's nothing new really, you know. This has been going on for a long time. So I'm actually wondering why people are like, oh, you know, this has been going on. And I think now what has made it like what I'm saying, what is made it really kind of maybe, gain prominence, is the fact that there is this coronavirus, the fact that people have nothing to do, the fact that, you know we've got so much to say. There’s social media and this is what’s happening. But I want to say that both sides, China and Africa, were wrong.

GD: So we see that in Guangzhou, or am I pronouncing it properly, there is a market or markets for Africans and they went there …there were some issues, right? Tell us the issues.

SS: Just to give people context, isn’t you know that we've been in quarantine in China. This is our 13th week, quarantined. And Guangzhou is actually China's manufacturing city. And Africans go there to buy clothes, to buy equipment, building materials and stuff. So…and Guangzhou has the largest number of Africans actually in China. Basically, most of them being their own business and some of them being victims of human trafficking and stuff. So there is a mixture of Africans who are business people, victims and criminals, and this is the truth.

There is a mixture of such African people, in Guangzhou. So what happened here was the Chinese, like I say, is slowly getting back to business now and it's opening some shops and businesses. And they are African people who came from home, Africa, to China, and arrived in March, around 20 March, And they were coming for business, you know, to buy whatever their stuff. And they were told to go on quarantine for 14 days. And during those days, they were being tested like, you know, having their temperatures checked every day. But then towards the end of their quarantine period, they realized that some of them were now showing signs of having coronavirus, which then led to them being asked to go for testing. Now this is where the issue started, when they were being asked to go for testing.

Some then thought to, you know what? The French doctors said they want to wipe out the African population. So now was resistance of like, no, we are not taking the test. Yes. So this is where the whole thing started off, some. And their resistance was also based on fear of saying, is this the real test or now I'm being a guinea pig. Right. So. And then those who agreed to be tested, they got tested, but then, for those who were tested, they also found that amongst those Africans, yes, some were positive with corona. Yes. Now, I want people to get this point, because this is the most important point that this whole thing is about and that I want the world to know. Now, imagine that these people have been locked up for 13 weeks. They also have children. They also have businesses. They are parents. They are daughters and stuff. They have been home. And then compare with us. We are failing to even quarantine ourselves for a week.

Now you've got an African who's been tested positive and decides to run away and get into the crowd. Now, what would you do? Because it's not about being African. This is about the health and the well-being of everyone. You've got someone who is positive and is now out there. Why would you do? So, this has nothing to do with race. I need people to really understand because you and me, I think even you, let's say you've now gone back to business today. You are here at the studio and say this 13 weeks I've been closed up in my house. Now I'm starting to do my business. And then you hear a black person, an African person is positive and is running around. If they come knocking at your door, will you open the door? Let’s forget about race for one minute. You open the door!

GB: That sounds scary. But then and when you take the matter further, you see that there are some people who are being evicted, who were actually evicted from their dwellings?

SS: It’s because they were refusing testing. Guys, listen to this. You know what? I am African and I'm very proud. And the organization that I have stands for the rights of African people. But what I want to say to my people, if we are wrong, sometimes we have to accept responsibilities We have to accept where we are wrong and not tolerate and not hide behind racial discrimination. I will tell you this, there are issues here of course, Chinese people have treated us so bad. But what would you do with people whom you know, OK, they are not even one now. So many of them are testing positive. They are positive. OK. They're scared. Yes, because in their minds, maybe they're being sent for tests - they don't want ... We've been on lockdown for a long time. We also want to go back to work. So do you want them to save you? Let's look at that. Now, yes, this is where the trick is. And then the second issue is one thing you have to know, this is the truth, and I know maybe people will shout at me and whatever that I'm not standing with African.

So many Africans my brothers, have no (immigration) papers. They have no papers. If I tell you, so many Africans have killed themselves just running away from the police. The police knock at their door, they jump out the window. They’d rather jump off seventh floor, tenth floor running away, than be deported. Yes.

GB: So, that's the other thing, that maybe they are scared that if they go to the polcie and you're sick and they say show us your passport? That becomes an issue, right?

SS: Yes. So these are things that people are not even also thinking about. Let's also not just say… just for making stories. But the issue here is, course, there were people who were tested. And now because of the few people who are running away, positive, few people who are refusing to be tested. Now you are refusing to be tested. Please, we all know China has the largest population in the world. So imagine if they and they've done their best to try and control it. Now imagine, these cases are imported. These are cases that are coming from outside. So that means that they're going to start that thing all over again.
GB: It seems as if there are also some Chinese that are coming from Italy, Russia, Portugal and so forth. And now we're seeing an upsurge in cases of coronavirus. So is that the case with what is happening in Guangzhou?

SS: I don't know about the Chinese cases elsewhere. I’m not really sure, but what I would say is of course, in Guangzhou, being the manufacturing city, like I said, because when it started getting back to business, business people actually rely on buying stuff for their boutiques, for their companies. They are also now coming into China.

GD: The other question people are asking you is how many months you have been under isolation or quarantine and what has it been like. Can you tell Zimbabweans that kind of story?

SS: This is our 13th week. 13 weeks. Yeah.

GB: How has it been?

SS: It's been very tough, I’ll tell you, it's been really really tough even for me personally. The first week I couldn't understand what was going on and the way they did it here, it was more hard than it is, you know, all over the world, because all over the world they're saying it's shut down, but they're still allowing people to go around. Here when they started the shut down, you know it was lockdown, as in lockdown. You could not go anywhere. You were not allowed to go anywhere. Our relatives could not allowed to even come and visit.


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