As spike in xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa continues unabated, the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has said the development goes against the ideals South African leaders fought for.
Describing the violent attacks as “unfortunate” Osinbajo recalled Nigeria’s role in pulling down apartheid in South Africa.
“It is unfortunate because Nigeria and Nigerians invested a great deal in the destruction and pulling down of apartheid. Besides, these acts of bigotry are entirely contrary to the very ideals that all the great South African leaders, including the present president fought for, and for which many gave their lives,” he said.
He said the federal government was concerned about the situation and “certainly intend to take this up with the authorities in South Africa in order to ensure that this sort of thing does not repeat itself.
Osinbajo who described that attacks as “absolutely unacceptable and unconscionable,” added: “Let me say first that these recent attacks are condemnable. 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 wantonness and with such carelessness and recklessness.
Also reacting, the former minister of external affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, said South Africa must be made to pay a price and a “heavy price for that matter if this continues.”
Speaking on ‘Politics Today’ on Channels Television, Akinyemi said Nigeria could leverage on South African investments in Nigeria to mount pressure on the South African authorities to prevent attacks on Nigerians and other Africans who have investments and residents in that country.
“These attacks have been happening since South Africa became independent and I can understand why Nigerians should feel that South Africans are ungrateful because of the sacrifices we made for them. There are South African investments in Nigeria that the Nigerian government can target. I am not advocating for retaliatory violence; I am advocating government actions in terms of blocking of dividends, blocking influx of things coming from South Africa to Shoprite and what they can do to MTN and all the other investments.
“You must protect your own country by targeting the investments of people who are hostile towards you. And even though these would have no direct economic impact in the pockets of black South Africans but those who own those companies would then have to talk directly to their government about putting in place measures that would prevent attacks on Nigerians and other Africans who have investments and who are residents in South Africa.
“This is not going to be the last time this is going to happen. It has been happening and it will continues to happen until South Africa itself sought out its own domestic economic issue with its own citizens. But South Africa must be made to pay a price and a heavy price for that matter if this continues. And I hope I am not micro managing Nigeria Foreign policy. I hope the Nigerian government would put in place measures that can be taken that would really affect South Africa economic interest negatively in other to stress whatever message is being put across.”
In his reaction, the senate president, Mr. Ahmad Lawan regretted that South African has not educated its younger generations on the contributions Nigeria made when that country was under the scourge of apartheid.
Lawan who condemned the xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa, with Nigerians being major victims said in a statement that Nigeria would no longer tolerate hate crimes in any form against its citizens doing legitimate businesses in that country.
“Xenophobic violence is most condemnable anywhere; more so in South Africa, a country which citizens benefitted from the unwavering support and solidarity of Africans and freedom lovers across the world in its historic struggle against apartheid.
“More disturbing, however, is that these attacks indicate the neglect of educating the younger generations on the sacrifices that Africans proudly made towards expunging the scourges of colonialism and apartheid from their continent.
“The enormous contribution of Nigeria to this historic struggle is underscored by its recognition as a frontline state in prolonged confrontation against powerful racist regime that held generations of Southern Africans in bondage and subhuman conditions.
“This recognition is in spite of the fact that Nigeria does not share geographical borders with the sub-region and was far removed from the direct consequences of apartheid,” he said.
Lawan said that the liberation of South Africa was rightly celebrated across the continent and the black world as the final emancipation of Africans from colonialism and apartheid.
He described as “unacceptable irony” that some South Africans would now choose other Africans in their country as the targets of mindless violent attacks over frustrations for which the innocent victims had no control.
It would be recalled that in the latest attacks about 50 businesses predominantly owned by Africans (most of which are mainly Nigerians) from the rest of the continent have been destroyed.
However, some Nigerians spontaneously took to the streets yesterday attacking Shoperite and MTN offices which are believed to believed to have South African interest.
The protesters attacked Shoprite retail outlet in Ajah, Lagos saying the destruction of South African firms would continue as long as Nigerians are not safe in South Africa.
In Akwa Ibom State, some angry youths invaded an MTN shop located on Ikot Ekpene Road in Uyo.
The attackers broke into the crowded shop around 2.30p.m, ordered people out, destroyed computers and windows.
The fear of attacks by forced Shoprite Polo Mall in Enugu to shut down indefinitely.
Games shop, which also shares the same building with Shoprite, equally shut down. Both business concerns are owned by South Africans.
In Oyo State, youths protested at the Dugbe branches of Shoprite and Stanbic IBTC Bank.
Reacting to the attack in South Africa, the Chief Executive Officer of MultiChoice, owners of DSTV and GoTv, Mr. John Ugbe, condemned the attack, saying the firm was committed to uniting Africans through its programming and cultural initiatives.
“We advocate equality and condemn all forms of discrimination. The on-going violence in South Africa against foreign nationals is against the spirit of Africans and counter-productive to the decades of work done by African leaders and well-meaning organisations to unite the continent.
“We embrace and celebrate the diversity of varied nationalities, traditions, culture and religions from across the continent and beyond. This is demonstrated through our multinational staff complement, our multicultural supply chain, as well as the local and international content that we showcase on both our DSTV and GoTv platforms. We believe Africa’s full potential can only be realised through dialogue, peace and unity,” said Ugbe in a statement.
Also, the MTN Nigeria Plc. condemned the xenophobic attacks, killings and looting of shops and properties belonging to Nigerians and other foreigners residing in South Africa.
“MTN Nigeria strongly condemns hate, prejudice and xenophobia and reiterates our unequivocal condemnation of all violence.
“Everyone has the right to a world where their rights and freedoms are respected – the right to live and earn a living, freely, safely and protected by the law,” MTN said in a statement.
FG sends envoy, proposes to deploy security operatives to South Africa
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday ordered the dispatch of a special envoy to South Africa over the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in that country.
The president’s special adviser on media and publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina said in a statement issued in Abuja that Buhari expressed his reservations about the reported assault on Nigerian citizens and property in South Africa since August 29, 2019.
He said the president asked the envoy to convey his concerns to the president of South Africa, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa and engage him on the killings.
Adesina said the envoy would arrive in Pretoria latest Thursday.
The statement entitled ‘Xenophobic attacks: President Buhari dispatches special envoy to South Africa,’ reads: “President Muhammadu Buhari has noted with deep concern, reported attacks on Nigerian citizens and property in South Africa since August 29, 2019.
“Consequently, the President has instructed the minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, to summon the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria and get a brief on the situation; express Nigeria’s displeasure over the treatment of her citizens; and assurance of the safety of their lives and property.
“President Buhari has also dispatched a special envoy to convey to President Cyril Ramaphosa his concerns and also interact with his South African counterpart on the situation.
“The special envoy is expected to arrive in Pretoria latest Thursday, September 5, 2019.”
Also yesterday, the minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama unveiled a proposal to deploy security operatives in the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa, whose job mandate will be to work with the commission to provide security for Nigerians in the country.
He said the federal government was of the belief that such security operatives will eventually be incorporated into the South African Police with a view to assisting it in pre-empting future attacks against Nigerians.
“We have registered our strong protest to the government of South Africa but most importantly, we have put forward to the South African government what we think will make a big difference.
“One, with regard to compensation for those who have suffered losses and most importantly, a security proposal that we believe will safeguard the security of Nigerians in the future.
“We are hoping to see the possibility of sending some security agents, deploying them initially in the Nigerian High Commission, to work closely with the South African Police Force.
“We believe that would be a very important process to address and pre-empt this kind of attacks and possibly for them to also be embedded within the police force of South Africa.
“So you will have some certain number of Nigeria security people trying to work with the South African police force,” he said.
Attacks are not xenophobic – South African envoy
Also reacting, South Africa’s head of mission in Nigeria and acting high commissioner, Mr. Bobby Monroe said there are no xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
He said after a meeting with Onyeama that the attacks were carried out by criminal elements to sabotage the cordial relationship between South Africa and Nigeria.
Monroe said the attack was not xenophobic stressing that the South Africa’s police minister announced that some South African businesses like Spar and Shoprite were also burnt.
“Our government condemns by all means any act of violence against any individual, the constitution of South Africa says that South Africa belongs to all those who live in it regardless of race, creed, gender.
“This new phenomenon that suggests that there are criminal elements within society that seek to create retrogression in the advancement that we have made between South Africa and Nigeria.
“The South Africa Police authorities have already arrested 70 individuals in Johannesburg and Pretoria districts who have been found to be looting and destroying properties.
“We had a lengthy discussion with the minister, and we arrived at a number of propositions, among which is the early warning mechanism, an agreement which has been proposed between the two countries and from now henceforth.
“We are going to be conveying the message of the Nigerian government to our government to ensure that we find logical conclusions to this problem on ground,” he said.