Troubling times in South Africa
Xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in particular and black Africans in general, has made the past weeks to be very traumatic for all black foreigners living in South Africa.
The crisis, which started in the Central Business District (CBD) of Pretoria, after a taxi man was allegedly shot dead by a foreigner, quickly escalated and extended to many parts of Johannesburg with lives lost and business places either looted or razed down.
Authorities of the University of Johannesburg and that of the University of Pretoria, however, responded to the attacks by commiserating with victims, showing solidarity and compassion to families that lost their loved ones in the unrest, and condemning the attacks.
In his recent address to the student body, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala said that the looting of shops and assault on people just because they were not born in South Africa can never be justified, and amounts to hate crime. He added that xenophobic violence undermines the rule of law, and must be condemned in the strongest terms possible.
“The University of Johannesburg joins the national call to stop all acts of violence, intolerance and xenophobia in South Africa, where foreigners are easy targets. We need to exercise caution and act with restraint, even amid the social and economical problems we face. It cannot be that whenever people are faced with challenges, whether they are of economical or social nature, they find it convenient to target migrants for attacks,” he added.
A graduate of the University of Johannesburg, Adetokunbo Oladejo, expressed digust at the unfortunate happening, just as she described attacks on Nigerians as, “injustice and an unwelcomed development. This is because the livelihoods of many Nigerians in South Africa have been destroyed and their lives threatened daily, while they still live with the fear of whether they would return home dead or alive.”
She said that foreigners in South Africa perceive that xenophobia as an issue has not been sufficiently “dealt with by the media and government because overtime, the media has not paid enough attention to the issue of xenophobic violence all in a bid to protect the image of South Africa globally. In addition to this, the South African government is perceived to be biased and nonchalant towards the well-being of foreign black Africans.”
While the attacks persist, black foreigners in the country are putting measures in place to avoid being victims of the attacks. Some of them have drastically reduced their movements, avoid xenophobic strongholds, as well as avoid taking public transportation as much as possible.
Only recently, a black foreigner had her stars to thank after she promptly disembarked from a taxi after the driver got agitated midway into the trip.
According to the story, “after an unnamed lady answered a phone call in a taxi, the driver picked up her accent and could tell that she was not a South African. He got so furious that other passengers in the cab advised her to alight from the taxi in order to save her life. Even though the affected lady was not fluent in Zulu, which the cab driver spoke, she could still pick up a few words, including when the hateful driver emphasised that “foreigners must pay with their lives.”
Even in educational settings, discrimination against black Africans is subtly become institutionalised, as even international students are rarely given deserving positions, irrespective of whether they are qualified or not.
This ugly development has forced some of the victims to claim that xenophobia has more to do with “the hatred of the guts of successful foreigners and their tendency to prosper.”
However, in order not to be taken unawares, the University of Johannesburg recently sent out precautionary messages to its students on how to keep safe at this time.
The university’s protection services has strengthened its 24-hour, 7-day-a-week security patrol on all its four campuses. The protection services now, also collaborates with other role-players such as the South African Police Service (SAPS), Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD), and the City of Johannesburg to promote a safe environment both within and around the university’s campuses.
Ukodie is studying …Accounting at the University of Johannesburg
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