South Africa Condemns Xenophobic Attacks on Nigerians, Others

  • Assures on safety of all foreign nationals in S/A
  • Police: 20 shops ‘possibly belonging’ to immigrants were looted

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The government of South Africa has condemned the recent xenophobic violence against foreigners including Nigerians and other Africans in South Africa, describing the incident as not only despicable but demeaning of the African people.

The South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Lulu Mnguni, who disclosed the position of the South African Government to journalists in Abuja yesterday, promised that culprits would not go unpunished.

He stated that irrespective of the level of grievances people feel, they are not allowed to take the laws into their hands.

Mnguni assured Nigerians of the preparedness of his country to protect the lives of all foreigners, stating that South Africans are peace loving people who would do everything possible to sustain and improve upon the smooth relationships that exist between them and their visitors.

The ambassador, however, appealed to foreign nationals in South Africa or those proposing a visit to ensure that they travel with genuine document and endeavour to respect the laws of their host country. He stressed that the issue of drugs and prostitution, which he claimed was largely responsible for the recent crisis, would require a collective efforts by all to be eradicated from the continent.

Muguni also advocated the need for foreigners to enter into partnership with South Africans to drive development just like the one that gave birth to MTN.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Government while strongly condemning the incident, “urged the South African government to take the strongest measures to protect the lives and property of foreigners living in South Africa and also to quickly bring to justice the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.”

The government in a release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs observed that incidents of xenophobic attacks have continued unabated in South Africa since 2015, and that Nigerians are among the groups that have been mainly targeted for attack and looting of their property. The ministry however urged Nigerians in South Africa to remain calm and law abiding, adding that high level communications aimed at permanently resolving the crisis have commenced.
The government nonetheless advised Nigerians in South Africa to be vigilant.

Part of the statement read: “The Federal Government of Nigeria unequivocally insists on, and will strenuously work towards, the protection of Nigerians anywhere, including in South Africa.

“The High Commissioner of South Africa to Nigeria is being summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during which government’s concerns on this matter would be brought to his attention.”

However, the police in South Africa yesterday said at least 20 shops possibly belonging to immigrants were looted in Pretoria. It but could not confirm if the attacks had deliberately targeted foreigners.

Anti-immigrant violence has flared sporadically in South Africa against a background of near-record unemployment, with foreigners being accused of taking jobs from locals and getting involved in crime.

Responding to similar incidents in Pretoria at the weekend, Nigeria’s foreign ministry said it would summon South Africa’s envoy to raise its concerns over “xenophobic attacks” on Nigerians, other Africans and Pakistanis.

South African police, according to Reuters, said they did not yet know the motive for the latest attacks, and no deaths had been reported. Police spokeswoman, Mathapelo Peters, said: “There are allegations that these shops belong to foreign nationals.

“It is alleged that the community members are saying that these shops were used for drug dealing but that is unconfirmed. “We will only be able to start a formal investigation once the shop owners come forward.”

The Atteridgeville neighbourhood, where the looting took place, was calm yesterday as police cars drove through the streets.

An unemployed man in his mid-20s, who declined to be named, said: “we are sick and tired of foreigners who are coming to sell drugs and kill our people, we can’t let the community go down like this.”

South Africa, with a population of about 50 million, is home to an estimated five million immigrants.

In April 2015, Nigeria recalled its top diplomat in South Africa to discuss anti-immigrant attacks that killed at least seven people and sent hundreds of foreigners fleeing to safety camps, as authorities sent in soldiers to quell unrest in Johannesburg and Durban.

In 2008, at least 67 people were killed in anti-immigrant violence, with thousands of people fleeing to refugee camps.