Bitter Truth: Nigerians Living In South Africa Risking Their Lives
By Olatunde Odebiyi, The Nation
Senate President Ahmed Lawan hosted South African High Commissioner to Nigeria Bobby Moroe in July. Lawan lamented all through the meeting in Abuja, the nation’s capital. As at that time, 118 Nigerians had been killed in attacks overs the years.
Lawan condemned the continuous killings of Nigerians in South Africa, warning that further attacks on Nigerians would no longer be condoned. He said 13 of the 118 deaths were by the South African Police.
A statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mohammed Isa, said Moroe and his delegation paid the visit to brief the Senate leadership on his government’s investigations to unravel the causes of the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and steps being taken to stop such.
According to Lawan, the meeting became pertinent considering the incessant attacks on Nigerians in cities in South Africa.
“We in the parliament must speak and prevent any further killings. These killings must stop. This is the era of social media where corpse of a victim may spark violence that may go beyond the control of government.
“The South African government must, as a matter of urgency, do whatever it takes to protect the lives and property of Nigerians living there, just as Nigerian government remain committed to the safety of South Africans residing here and their investments.
“I believe we have faced enough, we will no longer take it anymore. We want to write the names of Nigerians killed, and the South African parliament must act fast to put a stop to this menace.
“Over the years, 118 Nigerians have been killed, while 13 out of these were killed by South African Police,” he said.
The meeting did not end without Lawan reminding the envoy of Nigeria’s role in ending the apartheid rule.
Monroe spoke of the commitment of South African government and its law enforcement agencies to bring to book perpetrators of the attacks.
“Our government will continue to be committed to the good relationship with Nigeria. Your sentiment has gone deep into our heart, and you will be happy that the same sentiment has been our concern in South Africa.
“On behalf of the government of South Africa, we express our sincere condolences to Nigerian government for this unfortunate incident,” he said.
Moroe extended the country’s condolences to the families of the victims, promising that things would change. Instead, the attacks intensified in the last few days forcing Minister of Foreign Affairs Geofrey Onyeama to say enough was enough. Nigerian businesses were targeted and set on fire. The fresh attacks have led to three deaths of foreigners while another is still receiving treatment for smoke inhalation.
The President of the Nigeria Union South Africa (NUSA), Adetola Olubajo, yesterday said the attacks began on Sunday morning in Jeppestown area of Johannesburg when a building was set ablaze by an angry mob.
“The mob also looted several shops that were around the vicinity suspected to be owned by foreign nationals.
“But the Police later dispersed the mob and made some arrest,’’ he said in a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
“Late in the evening of Sunday, Sept. 1, a group of violent locals suspected to be Zulu hostel dwellers besieged Jules Street in Malvern, Johannesburg looted and burned shops/businesses.’’
According to a witnesses living on Jules street, the Zulu hostel dwellers were very organised and well-coordinated in looting and burning of any shops/businesses suspected to be owned by foreign nationals.
Olubajo said that information gathered by members of NUSA in Malvern area, indicated that over 50 shops/businesses were destroyed, looted and burnt over the night.
“Also, some businesses owned by foreign nationals were looted in Germiston on Sunday evening. A Nigerian-owned Internet Café and computer accessories business was among the looted shops in Germiston.
“When I got the sad news late yesterday (Sunday) evening, I immediately informed the Police in Jeppestown but lots of damage had been done already.
“The means of livelihood of people were looted and destroyed by fire overnight which have left many Nigerians traumatised.
“Nigerian-owned businesses were seriously affected. A car sales business owned by a Nigerian were among the several businesses set ablaze over the night.
“Although the Police said that many people had been arrested in connection with the unnecessary attacks, the looting and burning of foreign-owned businesses continued till Monday morning,’’ he said.
He added that properties and businesses belonging to foreign nationals worth millions of Rands had been lost to looting and burning in the past week at different locations in Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Olubajo said that there was massive protest march in different parts of Johannesburg which were targeted against foreign nationals, noting that some of the areas affected by the violent protest march were Rosettenville, Turfontein, Germison, Primrose and Silverton in Pretoria.
“We implore the security operatives to be proactive and not reactive as many long years hard earned investments have been lost through looting, destruction and burning.
“Our government officials in South Africa should also seriously engage their counterparts in South Africa.
“This proactive move will go a long way to prevent further loss of properties and even lives. The situation is tensed and very dangerous for foreign nationals, hence, we implore Nigerians in South Africa, most especially in Gauteng Province to be vigilant and stay safe,’’ he said.
The Nigerian Citizens Association in South Africa (NICASA) also called on the South African authorities to arrest and prosecute those involved in the burning and looting of Nigerian businesses in that country.
The President of NICASA, Ben Okoli, made this call in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja from Pretoria, South Africa on Friday.
Okoli said prosecution of the culprits would serve as deterrent to others and forestall such unwarranted occurrence in the future.
He said that crisis erupted on Tuesday in Pretoria Business District as indigenes angered by the death of a taxi operator apparently thought to be killed by a Nigerian went on rampage.
Okoli said that the said driver was, however, allegedly killed by a Tanzanian which sparked the violence that resorted to looting of shops owned by Nigerians and some other foreigners in that country.
He said that it was painful that erroneous information was sent to the public that sparked the protest which went out of hand, and before the police could curb it, serious damage had been done on Nigerian investments.
According to him, Nigerian-owned businesses looted and burnt include furniture, electronics shops, warehouses, mechanic and motor spare parts among others.
Okoli said the impact of the attack was much as millions of Naira was lost by Nigerian businessmen.
He said that though the crisis affected other foreigners, what made the matter worse was that the crisis happened where there were a lot of Nigerian businesses.
He added that a Nigerian had eight vehicles in his car lot burnt by the arsonists, while another had his warehouse containing his 16 years investment destroyed.
The NICASA president said that another had the customer’s car in his mechanic workshop destroyed, causing colossal damage to his investment in the country.
Okoli appealed to Nigerians in that country to remain calm, stressing that the issue had been reported to the Nigerian mission which had pledged holistic action on it.
He urged the Nigerian mission in South Africa to intervene by ensuring the safety of Nigerians in the country.
The NICASA president said that it was time the South African authorities ended xenophobic attacks on foreigners and mainly on Nigerians at any slightest provocation.
“At this juncture, we are appealing to the South African authority to be in control of security of their country, they must not allow these arsonists to take the laws into their hands always.
“What happened should not have degenerated into chaos if proactive measures were taken by the authority.
“The culprits should be prosecuted, we are no longer accepting the injustice, the damage is colossal and should not repeat itself,” Okoli said.