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African nationals in South Africa experience brutal wave of xenophobic attacks

Xenophobic attacks against African immigrants, specifically targeting Nigerian and Zimbabwean nationals in South Africa have hit the country. Shops belonging to African immigrants were looted and burnt in the latest brutal attacks. There has been an uproar on social media following the latest Afrophobic attacks, with calls for stronger and decisive intervention by the government.

Nigerians in South Africa are facing the greatest threats to their lives following the latest brutal attacks on African nationals by South Africans. Nigerian owned businesses were specifically targeted in the wave of brutal attacks which come a month before the scheduled meeting between  Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa. Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama condemned the violence on Nigerians. He said in a tweet, “Received sickening and depressing news of continued burning and looting of Nigerian shops and premises in South Africa by mindless criminals with ineffective police protection. Enough is enough. We will take definitive measure”.

Heart-wrenching videos and pictures widely share on social media show South African nationals, burning and  looting shops, and Nigerians, among other targeted Africans nationals running for their lives. One of the disturbing videos circulating shows four young Nigerian men hiding in a bush. In the video, the men said sometimes the South African men would demand they speak Zulu, one of the many languages in South Africa.

The attacks come ahead of the start of the African edition of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town on September, 4. According to Bloomberg, more than 50 shops owned by African immigrants were looted and torched.

The argument by South Africans has been that immigrants from other African countries are taking their jobs, mostly as drivers or other menial jobs. A rhetoric that’s not too far from America’s President Donald Trump, who has been deporting immigrants and keeping them in cages. There’s is also a long-standing accusation that foreign nationals are involved in criminal activities such as human and drug trafficking but there are no compelling statistics to support the views that foreigners are responsible for much of the crime happening in South Africa. Violence against African nationals in South Africa is pervasive and xenophobic sentiments are common, but the issue has not received the seriousness it deserves.

The South African government has not condemned the actions of her citizens, and where it has the responses have been far from convincing. The Nigerian government has not yet taken any diplomatic steps to address the killings of her citizens. While the relationship between the two countries stretches to Nigeria’s support of South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1980s, the current relationship between the two countries has been rocky.

Read: South Africa: Xenophobia triumphs in Gauteng

Read: South Africa: Africa Day workshop in Dunoon tackles xenophobia

In 2017, South Africa’s Deputy Police Minister Bongani Mkongi, while addressing the press was quoted saying, “How can a city in South Africa be 80% foreign national, that is dangerous. . . South Africans have surrendered their own city to foreign nationals. You won’t find South Africans in other countries dominating a city into 80%, because if we do not bait that, that necessarily means the whole South Africa could be 80% dominated by foreign nationals, and the future president of South Africa could be a foreign national.”

Minister Mkongi went on to claim what he said wasn’t xenophobic. He referred to businesses owned by African immigrants as an economic sabotage against South Africans, while citing how South Africans fought against apartheid and wouldn’t accept domination from African immigrants.

Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Chairman Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, said on Twitter, “whatever decisions to be taken now can only be at the Ministerial level. AU intervention may be crucial. This is not what we should be doing to ourselves as Africans”.

 

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