Xenophobic attacks in South Africa: Time for action

In what is becoming a horrible regular ritual, xenophobic attack by hoodlums in South Africa, specially targeting Nigerians has flared up again in Pretoria and Johannesburg.

According to the Nigerian Union in South Africa (NUSA), no less than ten homes, shops and even churches belonging to Nigerians were affected. Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Diaspora Affairs, Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa, also disclosed that Nigeria lost 116 lives to xenophobic violence within the last two years.

This time around, the mobs are complaining that foreigners have turned some neighbourhoods into drug dens. But the well-established underlying trigger for the upsurges of organised violence against foreigners is the notion that they deprive the citizens of South Africa of jobs and other economic activities and engage in criminal activities.

Even if this is the case, it does not justify these mob actions. It is the duty of the law-enforcement agencies to maintain the law. But unfortunately, these agents of state often appear unwilling or unable to assert their authority and proactively track the activities of criminals to prevent people taking the law into their own hands.

This lackadaisical attitude is obvious in the fact that those who attack foreigners are hardly subjected to the full weight of the law; and victims have never been compensated for their losses. To compound matters, Nigeria has never followed through any measure that could force the South African authorities to respect the various international treaties they are party to and protect the rights of foreign nationals, especially Nigerians, in their country.

There is nothing to break the cycle of violence, and there is no fear of repercussions. The Nigerian community in South Africa is left to live in perpetual fear, and some gangs now extort money from foreigners for their “protection”.

We are hereby saying enough is enough! The governments of South Africa and Nigeria must rise and address this issue once and for all. This is an assignment purely for the governments. The routine killings of Nigerians and destruction of their property in South Africa are inciting the sentiments of the general Nigerian populace.

This is particularly against the background of the noble roles  our country played in securing freedom for the Black South Africans from the shackles of Apartheid. It is a great irony that it is these same people (not even the Whites) that are carrying out these attacks on their supposed liberators.

We demand that the South African government protects foreigners in South Africa, especially Nigerians. President Jacob Zuma’s government should arrest and prosecute perpetrators of the xenophobic violence and compensate the victims accordingly.

It will be a sad day if the 122 South African companies and the South African community flourishing in Nigeria are targeted for reprisal. This is what can happen unless the xenophobic attacks are halted forthwith.

This Commentary was originally  published on  Vanguard Media, Nigeria