South Africa #StopXenophobia Now
Xenophobia, the fear of foreigners or strangers has reached alarming degrees in South Africa in recent years. The wave of xenophobic attacks by the country which prides itself as the “rainbow nation” in 2008, 2015 and recently appears to be a snake only scorched but not killed.
Time and time again, many Nigerians in South Africa, bears the brunt of such attacks. Reports have it that over 100 Nigerians have lost their lives in South Africa in the last two years due to mob action sparked off by different reasons which are at best flimsy and at worst lazy.
The reasons for these inexplicable attacks that the South Africans give ranges from Nigerians taking up their jobs, businesses, getting involved in crime, marrying their girls, etc. These reasons are downright feeble. Over here, we also have foreigners that take up jobs ordinary Nigerians should be employed for.
However, the difference here is that we are a civilized clime. We do not go about looting their properties or killing them. Instead, we have made appreciable attempts in ensuring that while these foreigners are not denied their rights to work in our country, our local content law also ensures that a fair percentage of jobs go to Nigerians.
Another reason many South Africans give is of us involving in crime. This is somewhat laughable. It is on record that South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world; crimes committed by South Africans themselves. I won’t be surprised if they blame Nigerians for the multi-million pound heist at Johannesburg airport on Tuesday evening.
Methinks they are just blaming and accusing foreigners/Nigerians when obviously, the overwhelming motive behind the xenophobic attack is to create opportunities to loot shops and business places of Nigerians and other African nationals.
I guess many ignorant South Africans have forgotten or do not know the role we played in bringing the evil policy of apartheid to an end; which was unparalleled to none within the continent. We were the first country to provide direct financial aid to the ANC from the 1960s. In the 1970s, we started giving the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) an annual subvention of a whopping $5million to help them in the struggle.
Civil servants in Nigeria during the apartheid regime were made to forfeit 2% of their income in what was then known as the “Mandela Tax” while students joyfully skipped their lunch at school just to be able to contribute to the Fund. We were instrumental in the creation of a Special Committee on Apartheid in the UN which we chaired for 30 years, were we proposed and implemented policies against apartheid.
We were also instrumental in setting up the National Committee Against Apartheid (NACAP) in the 1960s through which sensitization and mobilization of labour unions, students, civil society organizations and citizens against apartheid were carried out (we were the only country worldwide to have set up such a committee in their country).
These are just some of the few roles we played in emancipating South Africa from the thorn of apartheid. It is quite unfortunate now that many of our law abiding nationals in their country have been receiving such violent and fatal treatments. Unfortunately also, the impression we are getting from highly placed South Africans is that the mistreatment of Nigerians, including the xenophobic attacks, is official.
There haven’t been much official statements condemning in strong terms the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and most of the culprits haven’t been apprehended. Most of their top officials seem to be condoning the attacks, blaming it on Nigerians for drug peddling and other crimes.
Poverty and desperation, of course, are only a part of the cause of this gory xenophobic tale in South Africa. Extensive research has also shown that South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, are among the most xenophobic countries in the world and that South Africans hold by far the harshest anti-immigrant sentiments.
There have been calls for reciprocal attacks on South African businesses here in Nigeria. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, MTN was attacked in Abuja, in retaliation for the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians. However, I do not subscribe to violence. Violence begets more violence. Moreover, Nigerians will be the one who will lose more if we keep on attacking South African businesses here. Most of these South African businesses here such as Shoprite and MTN, have huge numbers of Nigerians in their labour force copared to ours over there.
While Nigerians and other foreigners in South Africa must be admonished to be law-abiding, the anti-Nigerian sentiment still growing in South Africa where Nigerians or those suspected to be of Nigerian descent are still being killed, must be condemned in the strongest terms.
The South African government must end such vices as immigrants profiling and xenophobic attacks in their country. They must take decisive and definitive measures to protect Nigerians and other African nationals within its borders.
The Nigerian government should also seek and proffer a long-lasting diplomatic solution were our law abiding nationals and their businesses in South Africa would be adequately protected. Failure to do this might have dire consequences.
Written by Abdulsalam Jubril
You can follow me on Twitter via @Abdul_Jubril