Recently, the Nigerian Community in South Africa came under fresh xenophobic attacks and there was widespread looting of Nigerian-owned properties and businesses in Pretoria West. According to the president of the community, Mr Ikechukwu Anyene, the union received information that there would be xenophobic attacks against foreigners on February 22 and 23. Consequently, all Nigerians in South Africa were advised to be vigilant in the face of renewed attacks.
These xenophobic attacks in South Africa started in December, 1994 and January, 1995, when armed youth gangs in Alexandra Township outside Johannesburg, Gauteng Province, destroyed homes and properties of migrants and marched the individuals down to the local police station where they demanded that the foreigners be forcibly and immediately removed.
This was followed by a series of more violent attacks across the country in 1998, 2000, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2016. In August 2000 for instance, seven xenophobic killings were reported in the Cape Flats district of Cape Town. Among those attacked and killed were two Nigerians.
In 2016 alone, about 20 Nigerians were killed in an extra-judicial manner and there are several other incidents of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, even though Nigeria’s former President, Goodluck Jonathan signed a Memorandum of Understanding to reinforce diplomatic ties in 2013 when there were xenophobic attacks on Nigerians.
These attacks came notwithstanding the contributions Nigeria made towards the liberation of South Africa during the apartheid era. Which is why I shudder and wonder, why all these attacks?
Many Nigerians have been killed in xenophobic attacks over the years and the South African Government should bear in mind that Nigerians know that they also have vast interests and businesses here. More so, there are South Africans who live and work here too, so they should not put their people in jeopardy.
South Africa has a lot of business interests in Nigeria such as MTN and Shoprite which is springing up all over the place. No report has ever been made that they were harassed. Now, the Nigerian Communications Commission is bent on reviewing upwards, the price of data and voice calls in Nigeria to the detriment of Nigerians. Even with the intervention of the National Assembly, NCC is bent on doing that just to protect the interest of foreigners.
The attack is purely criminal because they looted shops and homes before burning them down. Quite frankly, black South Africans lack self-esteem and may be jealous of other successful Africans. They were misinformed that they were better than other Africans. They got the shock of their lives when apartheid ended and there was an influx of African engineers, lecturers, doctors, et al into South Africa. These Africans filled the vacuum that was created by fleeing white South Africans and that is why they feel that Nigerians have taken over their jobs. As a matter of urgency, the Federal Government of Nigeria should persuade its South African counterpart to protect Nigerians in their country because they cannot continue to live in fear and uncertainty.