Why South Africa Should Stop Xenophobic Attacks on Nigerians

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The government of Nigeria is concerned about the recurring xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa

By Olu Ojewale  |  Mar 6, 2017 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THESE are not happy moments for Nigerians living in South Africa. Since last weekend, Nigerians and other Africans staying in the former apartheid enclave have been targets of xenophobic attacks, prompting outrage in Nigeria and other parts of the continent.

Irked by the turn of events, the Presidency called on the African Union, AU, and the South African government to take decisive and definitive measures to protect Nigerian citizens and other Africans living within South African borders.

Abike Dabiri-Erewa, senior special assistant to the president on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, made the call in a statement she issued on Monday, February 20, following reports of renewed violence against Nigerians and other Africans in South Africa.

Also, the Senate Committee on Diaspora Monday, February 20, condemned the attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa and advised the federal government to take harder stance against the country.

The condemnation came on the heels of the reported killing of Tochukwu Nnadi, a 34-year-old Nigerian businessman, by South African police on December 29, 2016, as well as weekend attacks on Nigerians and their businesses in the country.

Ikechukwu Anyene, a leader of the Nigerian community in South Africa, confirmed the attacks and looting of Nigerian-owned businesses in Pretoria West day.

Anyene said the Nigerian association had reported the incident to the Nigerian mission and South African police. He said: “As we speak, five buildings with Nigerian businesses, including a church have been looted and burned by South Africans.

“One of the buildings is a mechanic garage with 28 cars under repairs, with other vital documents, were burned during the attack.

“Also, the pastor of the church was wounded and is in the hospital receiving treatment.” He also said the union had informed Nigerians in South Africa to be vigilant in the face of renewed xenophobic attacks.

Besides, he said there were plans of further xenophobic attacks against foreigners on February 22 and February 23.

Nevertheless, while describing the attacks as an unnecessary setback, Dabiri-Erewa advised Nigerians to be extra cautious. She noted that it appeared the South African government had no control over the attacks.

The SSA, however, urged restraint on the part of Nigerians and warned that further attacks without any reprimand might have dire consequences.

Dabiri-Erewa said the attention of the AU was being called because of reports of planned attacks against foreigners on February 22 and 23.

“These attacks should not be allowed to continue because it is a big setback,” she said.

Dabiri-Erewa had two weeks earlier met with Lulu Aaron-Mnguni, South African High Commissioner in Nigeria, on the killing of Nigerians in South Africa.

Aaron-Mnguni promised that the South African government was investigating the matter.
“We have lost about 116 Nigerians in the last two years. And in 2016 alone, about 20 were killed, this is unacceptable to the people and Government of Nigeria,” Dabiri-Erewa said.

Narrating his experience, Simon Adeoye, a 42-year-old Nigerian automobile mechanic, said he lost N240.650million (R10m) to the xenophobic attack on his workshop in South Africa last weekend.

Adeoye told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, on telephone from Pretoria, South Africa, that he got a call on the day of the incident that his workshop had been set ablaze and rushed to the place. “By the time I got there, 29 cars of different make, some Nigerian passports, documents of the workshop, money and other personal effects had been destroyed by fire.

“I was helpless and could not do anything,” he said.

Adeoye said some of the cars belonged to South Africans; others were being repaired for sale.

“I appeal to the federal government to assist me get back to business. Officials of the Nigerian mission have visited the workshop to do an assessment and we are yet to hear from them,” he said.

According to him, the mission should replace the passports gutted by fire to enable affected Nigerians have documents.

Adeoye said officials of Nigeria Union visited and commiserated with him on the incident.

“At the moment, I have lost everything I have. I need urgent help to re-start my business. This will also assist me pay my workers who have families to cater for,” he said.

The police said at least 20 shops, possibly belonging to immigrants, were looted in South Africa’s capital overnight, but they could not confirm if the attacks had deliberately targeted foreigners. Anti-immigrant violence has flared sporadically in South Africa against a background of near-record unemployment, with foreigners being accused of taking jobs from locals and getting involved in crime.

Indeed, Paschal Chinedu, who has been living in South Africa since 2006, said the South Africans had been accusing foreigners of taking their jobs. “The problem is that a lot South Africans like to attend parties and once they receive their pay they go clubs to enjoy themselves and get drunk to the extent that they cannot go to work on Monday, this is why some South African businessmen, especially white prefer to hire foreigners. And you know, we Nigerians are very diligent at work,” Chinedu said in an interview.

The Nigerian also said South Africans were also unhappy with foreigners, especially Nigerians because “their women prefer us to them because we know how take care of women.”

An unemployed man in his mid-twenties, who declined to be named, said: “We are sick and tired of foreigners who are coming to sell drugs and kill our people; we can’t let the community go down like this.”

South Africa, with a population of about 50 million, is home to an estimated five million immigrants.

In April 2015, Nigeria recalled its top diplomat in South Africa to discuss anti-immigrant attacks which killed at least seven people and sent hundreds of foreigners fleeing to safety camps, as authorities sent in soldiers to quell unrest in Johannesburg and Durban.

In 2008, at least 67 people were killed in anti-immigrant violence, with thousands of people fleeing to refugee camps.

That notwithstanding, the government of South Africa has condemned the recent xenophobic violence against foreigners including Nigerians and other Africans in South Africa, describing the incident as not only despicable but demeaning of the African people.

Mnguni said this while addressing Nigerian journalists in Abuja, on Monday with a promise that culprits would not go unpunished.

He said that irrespective of the level of grievances people might feel, they were not allowed to take the laws into their hands.

Mnguni assured Nigerians of the preparedness of his country to protect the lives of all foreigners, stating that South Africans were peace loving people who would do everything possible to sustain and improve upon the smooth relationships that exist between them and their visitors.

Rose Oko, chairman, Senate Committee on Diaspora, who expressed displeasure over the continuous killings of Nigerians in South Africa, said the committee had sent a letter to the ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking it to furnish it with details of what resulted in the attacks.

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