Renewed Xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, Nigeria calls AU action
-warns of reprisal attacks if attacks not checked
By Renn Offor
Following a surge of renewed xenophobic attacks which erupted in South Africa in the last few days which were directed on the Nigerian Community by South Africans in their country, the Nigerian government has reacted urging the African Union to swiftly intervene in the attacks.
And while urging Nigerian to maintain restraint, it also warned of the possibility of reprisal attacks from the Nigerian community if attacks were not checked by South African government.
This is coming on the heels of growing anger among Nigerians, home and abroad, about the violence and brutality with which South Africans attack fellow Africans with confirmed attacks and looting of Nigerian-owned businesses in Pretoria West.
The Guardian reported that the government of Nigeria has called on the South African authorities to take decisive and definitive measures to protect Nigerian citizens and other Africans within South Africa’s borders.
In a statement issued in Abuja by the Senior Special Assistant on foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, described the attacks as an unnecessary setback, while also urging restraint on the part of Nigerians. She warned that further attacks without reprimand may have dire consequences.
Dabiri-Erewa said the attention of the AU was being called to intervene because she had an information that there will be xenophobic attacks against foreigners on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23.
It will be recalled that Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa had two weeks ago met with South African High Commissioner in Nigeria, Mr Lulu Aaron-Mnguni on the killing of Nigerians in South Africa.
Mr. Aaron-Mnguni then promised that the South African government was investigating the matter.
Recall that a wave of renewed xenophobic attacks erupted in South Africa in the last few days.
The week before, at least 15 houses either belonging to or rented by immigrants, especially Nigerians, have been burnt by angry residents in Rosettenvile, south of Johannesburg in South Africa.
The residents were reported to be angry that foreign nationals had turned the neighbourhood into a drug haven.
Africa Review reported last week that some shops belonging to foreign nationals in the area were also looted.
South African residents in the area claimed Nigerians had illegally taken over most properties and turned them into drug and prostitution dens.
The African Diaspora Forum (ADM) chairperson, Mr. Marc Gbaffou, confirmed the attacks and blamed Johannesburg Mayor, Herman Mashaba, for his inflammatory comments.
Also Last week, www.ATQNews.com reported that a total of 116 Nigerians have been killed in South Africa through extrajudicial means in the last two years, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa has disclosed.
Nearly seven in 10 of the killings were carried out by the South African police.
Recall that in 2014, no fewer than 10 Nigerians were hospitalised while 25 shops owned by Nigerians were looted following attacks by organised gangs in South Africa.
In 2016, a Nigerian businessman Nigerian businessman, Ikejiaku Chinedu, 35, was, allegedly, beaten to death at the hands of some South Africans.
The latest killing of a Nigerian in South Africa occurred in December 2016 when Metropolitan Police in Cape Town suffocated Victor Nnadi, a native of Imo State, to death.
This renewed attacks continues to raise the fear of more xenophobic attacks erupting in South Africa following the previous attacks which started in 2008 when 62 people were killed.
Another round of xenophobic attacks took place in KwaZulu Natal Province in 2015 which saw seven people killed and over 5,000 displaced.
And between March and May that year, the violence spread to other parts of the province and to Johannesburg. Businesses were looted, homes wrecked, and thousands of foreigners were forced to flee and seek refuge in makeshift camps.
Most of those affected were from Malawi, Zimbabwe, Somalia and the DR Congo.
This new set of attacks are now targeted on Nigerians and their businesses.
Mr. Ikechukwu Anyene, President, Nigeria Union, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on telephone from Pretoria, South Africa, that the attacks began at 4.00 a.m.
He said that the union had reported the incident to the Nigeria mission and South African police.
“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 said.
Anyene said the union had informed Nigerians in South Africa to be vigilant in the face of renewed xenophobic attacks.
According to him, the union received information that there will be xenophobic attacks against foreigners on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23.
“We began taking precautionary measures when the incident took place today.
“The attack in Pretoria West is purely xenophobic and criminal because they loot the shops and homes before burning them,” he said.
Anyene called on the Federal Government to persuade its South African counterpart to protect Nigerians in their country.
“These attacks should not be allowed to continue because it is a big setback,” he said.
Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s President, revealed that his country has over one hundred companies doing business in Nigeria. This revealed during his visit to Nigeria last year.
If these strings of xenophobic attacks on foreigners is not dealt with once and for all, the attacks would continue to impact negatively on South African tourism, which is the third highest earner for its GDP.
According to centuryassociation.org, South Africa has been able to position itself as a relatively cheap destination for international visitors. The South African authorities hoped that it would generate nearly R500 billion a year by end of 2020 and create some 225,000 new jobs. But the recent xenophobic attacks on African immigrants has tarnished the image of South Africa and has seriously affected its tourism industry. Potential visitors to South Africa are raising questions about safety.
The digital images of armed gangs attacking immigrants and looting foreign-owned shops have revived fears among potential visitors. The brand of Rainbow nation, which South Africa has been patiently building over years on the basis of the warmth and welcoming nature of its people, has suffered a severe setback. Several countries in particular Australia, Botswana, China, the US and the UK have issued travel warnings to their citizens following the anti-immigrant attacks. Nigeria recalled its top diplomat in protest. Although the attacks were confined to certain townships around the country, with no tourists harmed, the wave of xenophobia would have impact on the country’s tourism and economy as a whole. Even the coastal region, like Cape Town, which is very remote from the unrest, has witnessed a dip in business.
The Shanghai Daily has reported that the recent wave of xenophobic attacks has dimmed the prospects of tourism in South Africa. Quoting the South Africa’s Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom, the Shanghai Daily reported that the cautious warnings issued by several countries to their citizens against going to South Africa would negatively impact the country’s tourism sector.
The conference industry is a booming sector in South Africa as it brings lucrative businesses and high spending elite visitors. The business events contributed to around to 10% growth in international tourist arrivals in 2012 and 2013. South Africa has invested massively in convention centres and despite being a long-haul destination, it has been successful in attracting international business events. But many delegates are now worried about their safety and they have made up their mind not to attend conferences in South Africa.
Indaba 2015, South Africa’s biggest tourism fair, was held from 9 to 11 May in Durban, the city which was the scene of most of the xenophobic attacks over the past few weeks. Several foreign tourism companies have been absent from the fair. Mozambique boycotted the fair in protest against the violence against their citizens.
Delegates from other African countries as well as the US and UK also cancelled bookings, citing fear for xenophobic attacks.
The South African Constitution protects the rights of all people living within the country, South Africans and foreigners alike. But this has not shielded the foreigners from being victims of appalling xenophobic attacks taking place in the various locations in South Africa. Limpopo Provincial Premier Stan Mathabatha has alerted that South Africans would need to be educated to protect and like foreigners instead of attacking them.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government has issued a strong warning to South Africa to call its citizens to order, saying that no country has a monopoly of violence.
This is just as the Nigerian government is demanding for a compensation for its citizens that were affected by the Xenophobic attack.
According to the Vanguard, Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, said Nigerian buildings, businesses and places of worship worth millions of dollars were reportedly destroyed during the attacks in Pretoria West, South Africa on Feb. 18.
Onyeama who said that the Federal Government had taken some measures to put a stop to the incessant attacks on Nigerians in that country, expressed worry on the alleged involvement of security agency in the violence.
“We are doing a lot, we are engaging with the South African Government; we have summoned the South African High Commissioner Mr Lulu Aaron-Mnguni to the ministry over the issue. “One of the things that were being said was that South Africa Police are accomplice in some of the attacks, not just on Nigerians but other nationals. “ We have communicated our deep concern to the South African Government if that is the case on this allegation, steps should be taken to ensure that the situation does not happen again.’’
The South Africa High Commissioner to Nigeria, Lulu Mnguni, has apologised to Nigerians, and other foreigners over the recent xenophobic attacks in that country.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), yesterday, Mnguni said the unjustifiable attacks were a poor representation of South Africa’s values and added that the South African government has taken measures to stop them.
“We reiterate our view that South Africans are generally not xenophobic.
“We are deeply saddened by these acts of violence that have taken place against the foreign nationals, especially the Nigerians affected in these communities.
“The South African government is sorry for the destruction and wishes the injured a speedy recovery.
“If they were, we would not have such a high number of foreign nationals who have successfully integrated into communities all over the country. No amount of anger or frustration can justify the attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops.”
He said his country’s Minister of Home Affairs has led a delegation to areas where crisis broke out, and that the police had been directed to provide security.
“We have dispatched a ministerial delegation to the affected communities in Johannesburg and Pretoria, which is being led by the minister of home affairs, Malusi Gigaba, to address the issues in the area. The South African government is specifically interested in addressing alleged claims of illegal activities of undocumented migrants which have been raised by communities. The police have been directed to work round the clock to protect both foreign nationals and citizens and arrest looters and those committing these acts of violence.