An Open Letter: On the xenophobic attack on Nigerians in Pretoria West, South Africa

Placeholder image The attention of All Progressives Congress in South Africa (APC-SA) has been drawn to the recent but sad incidents of xenophobic attack against Nigerians and certain other nationalities in Pretoria South Africa on the 17th February 2017. This scourge include the burning, looting and destruction of properties of Nigeria, causing bodily harm and manhandling to some individuals, fortunately, no life was reported lost in the incident. It is rumoured that a repeat carnage may occur between the 22nd and 24th February 2017.

The current situation was predicated on the notion that Nigerians and certain other nationals are criminals, drug dealers, human traffickers and prostitution barons, and had denied South African opportunities in the South African work place to their advantages (see attached). While we believe that the citizens of South Africa have the right to protect their society, the APC-SA strongly condemn taking such decision on wrong premises and fallacies perpetuated by lack of information. We believe in the rule of law and expected that criminal elements observed and picked from the society should be handed over to the law enforcement agents who have been mandated to ensure that justice is carried out without fair or favour. Jungle justice as perpetuated by some criminal elements within South Africa in the case above are prone to abuse, vendetta, settling of scores and miscarriage of justice and will surely draw any nation into more violence and loss of credibility in the criminal justice system.

We made bold to say that not all Nigerians are criminals and the South African universities, hospitals, workplaces and government offices are replete with Nigerians that adequately represent the good people of a great nation, Nigeria. The myopia of labeling all people of a nation by such label of criminality is an indication of how uninformed a society is and should be condemned by all well meaning South Africans.

Delving into history, Nigeria and many other African countries participated in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa. On April 4, 1961, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the Nigerian Prime Minister wrote to the ANC assuring it of Nigerian’s support for the struggle against apartheid in reaction to the Sharpville massacre. The Nigerian government immediately lobbied for the expulsion of the apartheid government of South Africa from Commonwealth the same year and was the first government to provide financial aid to ANC in the early 1960s. Specifically, the government provided approximately US$5 million annually to the ANC and PAC. In 1976, the Nigerian government also set up the Southern Africa Relief Fund (SARF) which provided relief, educational opportunity and welfare for many South Africans. By June 1977, Nigerian contribution to such fund had surpassed US$ 10.5 million and every arm of government, including the civil servants and students were mandatorily taxed to contribute to this welfare funds for South Africans . In addition, many South African leaders have spent time in Nigeria including the likes of Thabo Mbeki (1977-1984) among others. Finally, Nigeria intensely lobbied for the creation of the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid and chaired it for 30 years. These are among the many historical perspectives that occur between Nigeria and South Africa. The ANC called for academic boycott of South Africa in response to apartheid policies in 1958 in Ghana. It is known that the ANC headquarters were moved to Zambia and the organization had bases in Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland.

With the above, it is saddening to see the ANC government watch as attacks on foreigners is perpetuated in South Africa once and again. In recent times, the spates of such attacks have increased with no concrete effort in sight to put an end to it. In December 1994 and January 1995, armed youth destroyed the homes and properties of suspected undocumented foreigners in Alexandra Township. Other incidents include the following:

  1. September 1998, two Senegalese and a Mozambican were thrown out of a moving train by some group who blamed foreigners for unemployment and AIDS in South Africa.
  2. Similarly, in the township of Zandspruit, Johannesburg, residents went on a rampage and burnt down shacks of Zimbabwean foreigners living in the settlement because they believed that foreigners were stealing their jobs and causing crime.
  3. In 2000, seven xenophobic killings were reported in the Cape Flats district of Cape Town. Kenyan Kingori Siguri Joseph died in Tambo Close, Khanya Park in Gugulethu after being attacked and shot. Two Nigerians were shot dead in NY 99 in Gugulethu. Prince Anya, 36, who owned a restaurant in Sea Point, was hijacked with his wife Tjidi and their toddler in Adam Tas Road, Bothasig. In Mdolomda Street in Langa, two Angolan brothers, Nguiji Chicola, 23, and Mario Gomez Inacio, 25, were trapped inside their house and burnt to death.
  4. May 11 2008, an outburst of xenophobic violence happened in Alexandra, Johannesburg with more xenophobic violence in other townships. Firstly, in Gauteng province but later into Durban and Cape Town among other places. Zimbabwean and Mozambican were the most affected by these incidents. Many houses were burnt, 342 shops were looted and 213 burnt down with hundreds of people were injured, thousands chased away and the death toll was 56.
  5. Mozambican Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, who was 35 years old, was beaten, stabbed and set alight in Ramaphosa informal settlement on the East Rand. Nobody had been arrested for his horrible murder. Police closed the case on 27 October 2010 after concluding that there were no witnesses and no suspects. In all, 62 people were killed.
  6. On 24 May 2008, Spaza shops owned by Pakistan, Somalis, and Ethiopians were attacked, their stocks were looted and the doors ripped down. The looting was widespread in Sebokeng, Orange Farm, and Evaton areas South of Johannesburg.
  7. Between 14 to 17 November 2009, 3000 Zimbabwean citizens living in the rural community of De Doorns, an informal settlement near Breede Valley Municipality, in the Western Cape was displaced as a result of xenophobic violence. It was a selective annihilation of Zimbabweans.
  8. Similar violence, killings and lootings have occurred in Ekuphumleni, Stofland and Hasie Square located in Ward 2 of De Doorns, Breede Valley Municipality, Western Cape (14 November 2009), Stofland and Hasie Square (17 November 2009).
  9. Eight South African police officers from Daveyton, East of Johannesburg tied the 27 years old Mozambican man, Mido Macia, to the back of a police van and dragged him on the road. Subsequently, he died in a police cell from head injuries (27 February 2013).
  10. Two Zimbabwean men were killed by South Africans mob in xenophobic violence in Diepsloot, on 26 May 2013.
  11. In January 2015, following a shooting incident by a Somali shop owner in which he shot and killed a 14-year-old boy, Siphiwe Mahori, during an alleged robbery in Soweto Township, and another incident in which Lebogang Ncamla, 23, was shot thrice in the arm, waves of attacks and looting of foreign owned shops happened. An estimated 120 Spaza shops owned by Somalis and Bangladeshis occurred in Snake Park, Zola, Meadowlands, Slovoville, Kagiso, Zondi and Emdeni in Soweto. In Zondi Section, the police instructed looters to queue outside a foreign-owned shop and allowed four of them in at a time to prevent a stampede. Police arrested a suspect accused of killed 14-year-old Mahori, along with a number of looters and foreign nationals for possessing three unlicensed firearms.
  12. On 5 March 2015, xenophobic attacks occurred in Limpopo Province. Foreigners on the outskirts of Polokwane left their shops after protesting villagers threatened to burn them alive and then looted them.
  13. On 21 March 2015, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini made comments that foreigners should go back to their home countries because they are changing the nature of South African society with their goods and enjoying wealth that should have been for local people. This horrified foreigners who have been dealing with a spate of xenophobic attacks around the country. Prior to this statement, Noel Beya Dinshistia from Congo, a bouncer at a local nightclub, was doused in a flammable substance before being set alight while on duty two weeks ago.
  14. On 8 April 2015, the spate of xenophobic violence increased and on 10 April 2015, two Ethiopian brothers were critically injured when their shop, in a shipping container, was set on fire while they were trapped inside. One of the men died while in hospital.
  15. Women protest as rioting and looting is quelled during anti-foreigner violence in Durban, April 14, 2015. Series of other attack happened in 2015 and were linked to the King’s statement.

On the recent incident that targeted Nigerians in Pretoria West, the Nigerian government should demand an apology from the South African authority on the sad incident and find a way to document and get adequate compensations for all Nigerians involved in the recent carnage.
The ANC government should not allow disgruntled and uninformed elements in society to disrupt the good works the leadership had been implementing since the advent of democracy in 1994. The government should condemn the incident in strong terms and provide a concrete plans on how to prevent such incidents on Nigerians and other Nationals in the future. Such incident have caused untold damage to the South African brand and made the country appear hostile to foreigners. It may appear that the trigger of these incidents are the widening inequality in the South African society, and disgruntled elements leverage on these issues to caused disaffection among the people. The ANC government will need to address these issues urgently and fast-track service delivery.

It becomes important for the information and public enlightenment agencies of government to launch focused campaigns that earnestly promote receptivity, openness, public education and right information to South African citizens. The investments of South Africans and organizations within the country should see its multilateral relationship all across the continent.[Engr. Bola Babarinde and Prof. Oludayo Fasina]

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