MTN, MultiChoice shut branches in Nigeria amid protests over SA attacks

MTN, Multichoice and Shoprite have closed shops as South African companies in Nigeria and Zambia are being targeted by protestors following xenophobic attacks in Gauteng.

South African television group MultiChoice has shut its offices and branches in Nigeria and Zambia, according to its head of corporate affairs Jabavu Heshu. This followed protests at the group's Nigerian and Zambian offices in Lagos and Lusaka.

Heshu told Fin24 on Wednesday that the branches would remain closed until the situation had stabilised.  "We have had to shut branches and offices to safeguard customers and staff until further notices," he said.  

"The on-going violence in South Africa against foreign nationals, is against the spirit of Africa, and counter-productive to the decades of work done by African leaders and well-meaning organisations to unite the continent," said Heshu in a statement.  "We are a proudly African company and although our story began in South Africa, today we represent the African continent in all its diversity through our presence across the region."

The MTN Group, meanwhile, said in a statement that it had closed its stores and service centres in Nigeria "as a precaution" after four stores in Nigeria were attacked. It also closed several stores in Johannesburg. It said there had been no reported injuries.

"While we remain committed to providing uninterrupted services, the safety and security of our customers, staff and partners is our primary concern," it said in a statement, adding that it opposes any form of xenophobia. 

"As a company, we remain committed to ensuring a peaceful, harmonious and respectful relationship with all our stakeholders across Africa."  

Xenophobic violence 

Shops owned by citizens from other African countries have been looted in recent days in South Africa, while truck drivers from neighbouring countries have also been targetted in violent attacks. On Tuesday evening police in Gauteng announced that 189 people had been arrested since Sunday for public violence, malicious damage to property and theft, and five murders reported. 

Shoprite, meanwhile, has confirmed that several stores in South Africa, Nigeria and Zambia were unable to open due to protest action, and extensive damage has been done to supermarkets over the past 24 hours.

"(Shoprite) is highly concerned about the acts of xenophobic violence against foreign nationals that sporadically flare up and the resultant rhetoric of intolerance that is levelled against foreigners and the platform this creates for criminals to exploit this," it said in a statement.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking at a Brand SA breakfast meeting in Cape Town on Wednesday morning, condemned attacks on foreign nationals living in South Africa, saying SA is a 'home for all".

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, meanwhile, has summoned the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria to respond to the xenophobic attacks, and dispatched a special envoy to South Africa. The chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has condemned the xenophobic violence in South Africa and called for "further immediate steps to protect the lives of people and their property".

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