By Elizabeth Chukwuma
Between 2006 and now, angry South Africans had targeted Nigerians and other foreigners in the guise of Xenophobia attacks in Johannesburg, the country’s Commercial nerve center, KwaZulu-Natal, Durban and other major Cities and towns in the country, destroying vehicles and looting shops. The Xenophobic attacks , was said to have become pronounced in 2008 and 2015 as many Nigerians were forced to close down their businesses to avoid being looted. Nigerians who fell into the waiting hands of the Xenophobic attackers had their shops looted and vehicles destroyed.
Former Goodluck Jonathan had the opportunity of talking tough to Oliver Thabo Mbeki, who was the country ‘s President as at 2008 and Jacob Zuma, who was President in 2015 to extract a Commitment from them to guarantee the protection and security of Nigerians living in South Africa. Perhaps, his failure to take up the matter at the highest level of government with the two South African former Presidents may have encouraged the Youths to continue the Xenophobic attacks in subsequent years with Nigerians being the major target on alleged Criminality.
Note that about 70 percent of the foreigners living in South Africa were said to have come from the neighbouring Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho. The remaining 30 percent , according to the country Immigration sources were made up of people from Malawi, United Kingdom, UK, Namibia, Swaziland , now Swatini, India and other countries including Nigeria.
Going by the country’s Statistical report, there an estimated 3.6 million immigrants in the country, out of an overall population of well over 50 million. The BBC, in its report revealed that the’’ violence were often triggered by local disputes , with migrants being accused of taking jobs away from South Africans’’. Indeed, the causes , according to Ekambaran, who, runs a the Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme for Lawyers and Human Rights Organisations are’’ poverty which had its roots in apartheid’’.
Going by Province to Province break down of the Xenophobic attacks between 1994 and 2018 alone, it was said to have occurred 212 times in Gauteng Province, which includes Johanesburg, Western Cape 111, KwaZulu Natal 67, Limpo 40, Eastern Cape 33, Mpumalanga 22, North West 20, Free State 19 and Northern Cape 5 incidents.The South African Youths may have been attacking foreigners in the past and get away with it but thy got it wrong this time around in attacking Nigerians in Johanesburg and Durban and looting their shops.
The situation was so bad that Yemi Osinbajo , a Professor and Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, described the attacks on Nigerians as unacceptable. ‘’ it is very sad and very unfortunate that the lives and livelihoods of Nigerians living in South Africa are once again being destroyed with such carelessness and recklessness’’.
The worry of Osinbajo, was that Nigerians had invested a great deal in the businesses that had been destroyed and pull down by angry South African Youths. Given that South African Security Operatives, particular the police, had watched while Nigerians were being killed may have prompted the National Association of Nigerian Students , NANS, to take to the streets in Lagos, Ibadan , Kaduna and other major cities in the country to attack South African owned Companies .
Note that South Africa, has three major multi-million dollar investments in Nigeria:MTN, Multi-choice, a digital Television and Shoprite , which is scattered all over the country. The aggrieved Nigerian students may have sent a signal to the South African Xenophobic attackers , that the battle line has been drawn when they shut down Shoprite in Ogun state on Saturday, August 10, 2019. They were said to have also shut down MTN offices in Kaduna ,north west Nigeria.
Last Tuesday, the protesters had set fire to many entrances leading into the busy mall housing the country’s retail store, Shoprite , at Lekki, a high brow area of Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center allegedly looting the shops. Another outlet belonging to the chain and owned by the Country’s Mobile Company, MTN, were vandalized in Ibadan, a major city in south west Nigeria.
Recall that Lai Mohammed, the minister of Information and Culture had appealed to Nigerians not to attack South African Companies operating in the country in anger over the treatment being meted to Nigerians in school and doing business in South Africa. The appeal may have fallen on deaf ears as the protesters still touched some South African businesses in Nigeria.
The minister who could not hide his feelings had said that targeting the South African Companies operating in the country for attack was not in the best interest of Nigerians, noting that ‘’it is a classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face’’.
He insists that the South African Investors have nothing to lose as the major Investors in MTN and Shoprite , were Nigerians. Take for instance, Pascal Dozie, a business mogul and Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state and National leader of the All Progressive Congress, APC, have been linked to the two prominent South African Companies. Dozie, the Imo state –born investor was said to have invited MTN from South Africa to open an outlet in Nigeria and became one of the major shareholders while Tinubu, allegedly brought in Shoprite and became one its major shareholders.
Mohammed who may have spoken the mind of President Muhammadu Buhari when he urged Nigerians to exercise restraints as majority of the workers in the Companies were Nigerians. He fears that many Nigerians would be thrown into the Labour market if the businesses are closed in Nigeria.
Worried at the backlash effect of Xenophobic attacks, on South African Companies in Nigerian and other African countries, particular Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Management of Shoprite has condemned the violence attacks on Nigerians and other foreigners and their business in South Africa to show that they were not in support of what the irate South Africans had done. The Company has vowed with the Ramaphosa government , Industry and Consumer groups to ensure that decisive action s are taken against those who were involved in the violent Crime Crimes against foreign nationals in South Africa.
Despite the position taken by Shoprite Management against the Xenophobic atackers in Johanesburg and other major Cities in South Africa, the Katsina state –born Nigerian President , has given a matching order Geofrey Onyeama, minister of Foreign Affairs to summon Bobby Moore , the country’s High Commissioner to Nigeria to get a brief on the situation and also express the country’s displeasure over the ill- treatment of Nigerians in their own country and endeavor to extract a commitment from him that Nigerians would no longer be molested.
The President was said to have also dispatched a special envoy to convey to President Ramaphosa, his counterpart in South Africa about his concerns over the Xenophobic attacks and also interact with his South African leader on the situation. The Envoy was expected to have left the country , to Pretoria on the Diplomatic assignment. For the first time since 2008, the government is taking the Xenophobic attack on Nigerians serious that that it has vowed to address it once and for all. ‘’Enough is enough’’, Onyeama said.
Recall that Moore, South African Foreign Affairs minister, had said last Tuesday, August 3, 2019, at a Joint Media briefing with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs , that the’’ attacks in South Africa were not Xenophobic neither were they targeted at Nigerians. Moore disclosed that ‘’they were only sporadic attacks of violence’’. He noted that businesses belonging to South Africans were also touched in the violence.
Also, Ramaphosa, the South African President had confirmed some months ago that all the Xenophobic violence was between South Africa against Nigerians but most of the times ‘’it was Nigerians against Nigerians ‘’ostensibly to exonerate his country from blame.
But Femi Adesina, Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, would not take it. Adesina had told those that cares to listen that the g that there is nothing sporadic about the attack. He assured that the government would continue to ‘’demand for the protection of Nigerians from the South African government’’, noting that failure to do so may force the government to adopt stronger measures to deal with the situation.
Already there have been pressures on the government to withdraw its High Commissioner from South Africa. Ike Ekweremadu, a Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria, said there is no other better time to do it than now that Nigerians are constantly been subjected to Xenophobic attacks .
Pressures from different quarters may have forced the government to quickly recall Kabiru Bala, the High Commissioner to South Africa for Consultations. The government was said to have also stepped down its participation at the World Economic Forum to be hosted by South Africa.
The President was said to approved Osinbajo, the Vice President to attend the forum but was said to have asked him to withdraw at the last minute following the violent attack on Nigerians. The government was to have made it clear to the Ramaphosa led South African government that that the losses suffered by Nigerians in the aftermath of the recent Xenophobia attack in the country must be fully Compensated.
Meanwhile Buhari and Osibajo, were said to have held a strategic engagement with Onyeama, the minister of Foreign Affairs, following the renewed hostilities against Nigerians in South Africa. There are fears in both official and unofficial circles that the recall of Bala, the High Commissioner, may encourage the south African government to also recall Moore, its High Commissioner in Nigeria , which may trigger a Diplomatic war. Between the two countries.
In apparent reaction to the attack on MTN, Shoprite and Some Multichoice offices in Nigeria by angry youths in retaliation to the Xenophobia – attack on Nigerians in South Africa, Moore , the country’s High Commissioner has shut down its offices and Consulate in Nigeria for fear of attack. The High Commissioner reportedly said the Mission has no option but to suspend operations in Nigeria till further notice.
Diplomatic sources said the closure of the South African Embassy and Consulate in Nigeria, was at the instance of President Ramaphosa, the country ‘s President called for the recall of Bala, the Nigerian High Commissioner in South Africa by the government.
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