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South Africa Xenophobic Violence: One attack, too many


Xenophobic Attack

Recent xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa, especially Nigerians, is not only becoming too frequent, it is worrisome, barbaric and undiplomatic. Several reasons have been adduced to the attacks, which include a new wave of nationalism, envy, pettiness, distrust and disparity in economic prosperity and others.

But the question is for how long will the attacks continue unhindered? What are the South African and Nigerian governments doing to stem the tide?

Why has the attacks continued to reoccur, despite assurances by the South Africa government and foreign diplomats? It is obvious that if the ugly trend continues unabated, it may degenerate into a diplomatic row between the two countries, which many believe may be detrimental to the African unity.

Meanwhile, when the latest violence broke out in Pretoria West, as the community members vowed to rid the area of “drugs and prostitution.” Who is responsible for these drug dealings and prostitution in the area? It is an answer the South Africa government should provide. It expected of the South Africa government to disclose the identities of those behind drug trafficking and prostitution in the country with evidence.

The African Diaspora Forum (ADF) has urged the South African government to take all necessary steps to prevent attacks on foreign nationals. National Spokesperson of the South African National Civics Organisation, Jabu Mahlangu, urged communities to expose criminal elements that attacked businesses owned by foreign nationals.

“Xenophobic looters, like drug dealers, are a menace to society because their shameful actions undermine the successful social integration and peaceful co-existence of foreign nationals in many of our communities,” Mahlangu said.

The Black First Land First (BLF) movement also condemned the violence in Pretoria West. In a statement posted on their website, it said black-on-black violence was getting out of control.

“South Africa is a deeply violent society – and we must own up to that in order to better deal with the reality. The culture of violence has its roots in the violence of colonialism and apartheid-and the oppressed misdirected counter violence in response.”

“The BLF said the country needed to deal with the root cause- lack of transformation and the continuation of apartheid economic and property relations in South Africa.

“This situation is exacerbated by the terrible ongoing economic and political crises here and in neighbouring countries. A solution to these crises needs an Africa-wide approach, but it can only take place within a decolonising politics and movement. Until then, we are going to be trapped in these cycles of violence,” the statement read.

Adewale Adebayo is a Nigerian businessman resident in Pretoria, South Africa. He said that Nigerians have always been targets of South African violence due to the fact that they are hardworking people.

Adebayo noted that he saw the attacks as coming out of envy that other African nationals, who are hardworking, make progress.

When asked if he was aware that there were some Nigerians who engaged in the drug trade, Adebayo said: “I am not ruling out the fact that there may be some drug traffickers among us in this country. But the fact remains that the suspects should be apprehended and prosecuted in a competent court of law.

“The innocent should not be punished for the sins of lawbreakers. If they want to punish people, they should make sure that it is only the property of drug cartels that are destroyed and not those of the innocent.”

He said that during the recent attacks in Pretoria West, residents looted and set the homes of foreigners on fire, adding that about 10 houses were set ablaze with many business premises, including those of Nigerians looted.

“The property involved are mainly owned by non-nationals and South Africans believe that they are used to carry out prostitution and to involve in illicit drugs trade.

Adebayo called on the South African government to take all necessary steps to prevent attacks on foreign nationals, as South Africans also reside in Nigeria.

He also urged all stakeholders and community members to report criminal activities and drug dealers to the police and avoid taking the law into their own hands.

He called migrants, South African citizens, concerned residents, who want to prevent this, to come out and help calm the situation. Adebayo said that non-nationals living in South Africans did not do anything wrong, hence do not deserve what is happening to them. He wondered if South Africans living in Nigeria will be happy if they are treated the same way Nigerians in their country are being handled.

In a related development and what looked like a reprisal, vandals attacked the regional head office of telecommunication giant, MTN in Abuja on Thursday stealing phones, cash and also destroying vehicles and office equipment.

About 30 vandals invaded the premises at 4 Madeira Street, Maitama at about 11:00am chanting ‘solidarity songs’ armed with sticks and rods. One MTN staff who was in the premises when it happened said the staff scurried for safety while the attack lasted for some minutes before the intervention of security operatives.

“I just heard people running, then I started running to hide and by the time we came out after the security operatives have chased them out, they have packed all the laptops we used to work, all the phones on display for sale, they broke some computers and took people’s personal phones and money,” the staff who pleaded anonymity said.

The source added that cash were also taken, but the amount could not be ascertained at the moment. “They got into the premises, the windscreen of a car was broken, all the doors from the reception to the personal service were destroyed,” the staff said, adding that the vandals were chanting xenophobia songs even after they were chased outside the premises by security operatives.

Also The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) on Thursday staged a protest to the South African High Commission in Abuja where they also burned the country’s national flag.

The students, led by its president, Aruna Kadiri, moved from the popular Unity Fountain to MTN office in Maitama and Multi-Choice office located at the Central Business District to protest against the renewed xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.

The protesting students also issued a 48-hour ultimatum to South African nationals to leave Nigeria. They also urged the High Commission officials to cancel the dinner to be organised in honour of Regina Tambo, the co-founder of ANC Youth League.

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the students urged the government to take concrete action to protect Nigerians in South Africa. Kadiri, while addressing newsmen, said: “We are demanding that they should break the ties between both countries if there’s any because the xenophobic attacks that had happened long time ago has come again.

“We have decided to clear the madness with madness.” He said they burned the South African flag at the High Commission to pass a message that “we don’t have relationship with them any longer.”

“Within 48 hours, all South Africans in Nigeria should leave or else, we won’t be able to guarantee their security anymore,” Kadiri said. Responding, the spokesperson of Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs ministry, Clement Aduku, urged the protesting students to be calm as the federal government is currently engaging in talks with its South African counterpart over the xenophobic attacks.

He also assured that all diplomatic means would be explored to stop the killings of Nigerian nationals in South Africa.

Attack Is Related To Inferiority Complex-Alimi. By Shakirah Adunola
A RENOWNED Psychologist at the Lagos State University (LASU), Dr. Ajala Alimi said: “The word xenophobic is not a new social issue. It talks about the fear of strangers. It has been an issue in South Africa for so many years. In the last couple of years, we have had similar attacks on strangers in that part of the country.

“When this type of fear comes, it comes out of inferiority complex like most of the youths in that part of South Africa. If you make your research very well, you will find out that many of them are not learned and when they see strangers coming to take a lion share of what belongs to them, they react. It is a reaction that emanates from inferiority complex.

“They are talking about struggling over scarce resources over there. Foreigners go there with the intention of making things happen over there, whereas the indigenes are incapacitated in terms of not having the relevant skills to manage what they have there. You can’t blame them. It is going to remain a problem until youths in that part of the country learn to acquire sufficient skills that will make them to be able to compete favourably with foreigners.

“We have a similar issue in South-South here in Nigeria. If you have been to Rivers state, you will see that most of the youths working in oil companies came from the West, because youths in the state are not well educated. You cannot put an illiterate where you are supposed to put a professional. It is an issue in Africa more than Nigeria, but the major issue is that foreigners come to compete with them over their resources to an extent that foreigners enjoy more than they do, which is normal. But when you don’t have what it takes to compete with others favourably, you will react because of inferiority complex.

He continued: “To resolve it is very simple. Youths over there should be more educated and acquire skills to compete with foreigners. Government should step up information to be able to let them know that the foreigners have come to better their lot, not just to exploit them. When they are being seen as exploiters they react by burning their properties even maiming and killing some of them.

“We expect government to keep on doing the needful by encouraging youths to get more education and get the skills. Let there be a skill acquisition training which will make youths over there to venture into productive activity, rather than looking at strangers as enemies, foreigners are bound to be there just like they are here in Nigeria, but you don’t react violently when they are doing their legitimate duty.”

‘Most Nigerians Living In S’Africa Are Seen As Drug Dealers’ By Chuks Nwanne
A NIGERIAN living in South Africa, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian that Nigerians are stereotyped as drug dealers in South Africa and that has tainted most Nigerians living in the country, even when they are legitimate.

“However, this stereotyping did not just start; Nigerians have contributed to it in no mean measure. Before Pretoria West, there was Rosettenville, where some Nigerians keep South Africans and use them for prostitution racketeering. It’s painful that South Africans do not think there are decent Nigerians, who make a living from verifiable sources.

“Again, there is also an envious perspective to this matter; there’s a widely-held belief among South African women that Nigerian men are high spenders and therefore prefer Nigerians to their locals who are considered uncaring. This has bred envy among South Africans who use every opportunity to let out their envy on Nigerians,” the Nigerian said.

‘Any Nigerian Killed Is Alleged To Be A Criminal’ By Daniel Anazia
TO Johannesburg-based Nigerian, Aare Bodunrin John Odus, the killing of Tochukwu Nnadi (King Kingsley) and every other Nigerian or foreigner in South Africa by the locals or the South African Police (SAPS) is very barbaric and uncalled for.

According to him, the Nigeria Union South Africa and other institutions, including some reasonable South Africans have condemned the killings. However, he opined that the community and the alleged criminals needs to be educated of the reason the SAPS is in existence.

He said: “From all indications any Nigerian killed is alleged to be a criminal either by selling drugs or involved in illicit business, which is not totally true. Yes, some Nigerians may be into unspeakable businesses, which by law makes them criminals, but that is not enough reason to kill them unlawfully.

“Everyone has human right, which can be exercised until found guilty in an appropriate law court. We have so many Nigerians in the government sectors in South Africa- lecturers, medical doctors, accountants, and lawyers among other genuine professions. Though they are not affected, but the stigma is on all Nigerians. My advice is to continue educating both parts- the alleged criminals and the locals/SAPS- of ways to treat such issues without resulting to extra-judicial killings.”

On what the Nigeria Consulate in South Africa has done to address the situation, Odus said: “The Nigeria Consulate is not happy over the killing of her nationals and has been working with all sectors of South African government to always prosecute anyone found guilty than applying extra-judicial method.

“Nigeria Consulate also works with Nigeria Union, where you have a large number of Igbos than any other tribes from Nigeria. “We cannot deny the fact that unemployment is on a large scale everywhere in the world as it is in South Africa. Even with that few, Nigerians are into salary employment; majority are self-employed and contribute positively to the South Africa economic growth.

“A few who are new in the country and have no permits are struggling to survive among which we have the funny characters, who are into illicit deals. Even some old Nigerians, too, are involved in drugs/prostitution. What do you expect where there is demand, obviously supply will come.”

On what the Nigeria Union has done so far, he said: “The Nigeria Union has never been this active in the past and a lot has been done like seminars, campaign against drugs/prostitution. Nigeria Union works with Nigeria Consulate to penetrate the South African government through Nigerian government offices in Abuja. I believe with the effort of Nigeria Union and Nigerian government, the killings would be reduced.

Asked if Nigerian government has done or is doing enough to protect it citizens in the Diaspora, the Vice President Impelesi Consultants and Foundation (organisers of the yearly festival tagged ‘Yoruba Cultural Festival SA) said that is an understatement. “Nigerian government can do more if they want to or if they know the worth of their citizens,” he stated.

Have Nigerians in South Africa got better treatment?
“The question should be have Nigerians in Nigeria got better treatment? So, how can those in the Diaspora enjoy such from same government? Without mincing words, Nigerian government can do more like United States and China to protect their citizens.

“Let’s not forget the bad eggs among Nigerians over here, who are never going to change from their illicit business. These set of people need to be dealt with in a lawful manner. Some of them use South African ladies to sell drugs and prostitution. These are the main reasons the locals are reacting by killing Nigerians.”

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