The level of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians perpetrated by unscrupulous elements in South Africa has, in recent times, risen to an alarmingly high level.
It is appalling and highly depressing that certain South Africans see nothing wrong in attacking foreigners, especially Nigerians, living in their country. It has been ongoing for over a decade yet very little is being said about it.
Xenophobia, racism, nepotism, discrimination and the likes are shameful and evil acts, and therefore shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere, let alone in a country that’s Africa’s second-largest economy.
Meanwhile, a July 2019 report by the News Agency of Nigeria confirms that within the past 30 months over 120 Nigerians have lost their lives as a result of Xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
Judging from this figure, it is highly important to address this issue as soon as possible.
In 2017, the then South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma, condemned all acts of violence perpetrated by citizens against non-nationals.
However, it doesn’t look like those xenophobic attackers are going to ease off any time soon.
What is causing Xenophobia in South Africa?
Most of the locals involved in such attacks claimed they were on the mission to rid their country of bad elements, which they believed were mostly Nigerians.
“We are tired of the crime in our area. These Nigerians must take their drugs back to Lagos,” said Charles Ngakula of Pretoria West.
Whether or not Charle’s Ngakula’s claims are true, the fact is, what those Xenophobic elements are doing is a criminal act. Besides, many people hide behind Ngakula’s claim to loot and steal from innocent foreigners.
In 2017, reporters from Rapport newspaper claimed they witnessed some group of people storm the house of a Zimbabwean refugee and begin to plunder it, while a police vehicle passed by without taking any action.
An asylum seeker from Nigeria, Segun Oluwa, staying at Pretoria West, said: “At 8 am, people stormed into our house and shouted: ‘All foreigners must leave!'”.
“Thereafter, the men looted the house and set it on fire”, he added.
Michael Olakunle, another Nigerian immigrant residing in the same house as Segun Oluwa, said: “We didn’t do anything wrong. We don’t deserve what is happening to us. South Africans must watch out. There are also South Africans in Nigeria and we will do the same to them there.”
Other people who lived in the same house as Segun Oluwa also confirmed that the police witnessed what was happening, but didn’t do anything about it.
Another possible reason for the attack is the erroneous claim that there are over 800,000 Nigerians living in South Africa.
According to a community survey conducted by the South African Government in 2016, roughly 30,314 Nigerians are living there. Although the estimate is not absolute, 800,000 is nowhere near the survey.
South African attacks on Nigerians in recent times
Mrs. Elizabeth Ndubuisi Chukwu, the Deputy Director-General of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN), was recently murdered in her hotel room.
For now, her killer hasn’t been apprehended; however, all fingers across popular tabloids in Nigeria point to a possible Xenophobic attack.
The reason is, the result of her autopsy claimed she didn’t die of a natural cause. Ndubuisi is said to have been strangled to death.
In the middle of an ongoing investigation into Ndubuisi’s death, a young boy, Chinonso Obiaju, 17, was killed by an unknown gunman. Again, all fingers point to a possible xenophobic attack.
How South Africa can end Xenophobia
Xenophobia is a crime and must be treated as one. Therefore, the government must impose strict punishments on individuals who incite such evil acts.
Indeed, the Government of South Africa needs to do more; however, some issues are beyond what the government can handle alone.
Hatred towards any race or person is like a highly contagious infection. In other words, hateful people attract and convince other people deliberately or unknowingly to hate what they hate.
Goodwill South Africans must, therefore, play their part by calling their xenophobic relatives and friends to order.
The consequence of continued xenophobic attacks in South Africa
Several groups in Nigeria are condemning the continued xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and are promising to take matters into their hands.
News Agency of Nigeria reports that The National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, recently shut down the office of MTN in Kaduna.
According to them, it was in retaliation to the continued attack on Nigerians living in South Africa.
They promised to do even worse if the situation is not handled as soon as possible.
An official of NANS, Philip said: “Available record has shown that the level of attacks on Nigerians is on an astronomical rise, with the recent killing of Nigerian by South Africans, on July 20 increasing the number to 118 in the last two years.
“Out of this number, 13 were reportedly killed by South African Police in an extra-Judicial manner.
“It appears that the South African government is incapable of bringing their citizens to order and stop the killings, leaving us with no option than to picket South African businesses in Nigeria until the killing is stopped.
“We, therefore, want the South African government to investigate and provide an accurate number of Nigerians so far killed and prosecute perpetrators of xenophobic attacks to ensure justice for the victims.
“We equally want the government to generate data of all Nigerians, whose properties were burnt or looted for immediate compensation.” NAN quoted him as saying.
Philip subsequently demanded that all South African businesses in Nigeria be closed pending sufficient proof that Nigerians living anywhere in South Africa were safe and are allowed to do their businesses freely.
Recall that MTN Nigeria is owned by South African-based MTN Group Limited. This explains why NANS is targetting the company.
Not that MTN has anything to do with the activities of xenophobic individuals in SA!
If you recall, according to historians the first world war began in August 1914. It started after Bosnian revolutionary, Gavrilo Princip assassinated Austrian archduke, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, on 28th June 1914.
Needless to say, WW1 is an example of how one person’s actions can cause a ripple effect.
The infamous war led to the death of over 17 million people and injury to over 20 million more.
May God forbid us witnessing something so evil!
Therefore I humbly urge Nigerians to be calm and avoid retaliating in a way that can trigger war.
The insurgency and militancy Nigeria is currently facing are enough problems on their own.