South African Attacks: When Will Enough Be Enough?

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Geoffrey Onyeama

POLSCOPE with Eddy Odivwri

It is pretty difficult understanding the bitterness that has underlined the hostility of the South Africans against fellow African nationals, particularly Nigerians. For over five years, the spate of attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa has been on a steady rise. But each time this happens, the Nigerian government so-to-say, handles it glibly promising that it would not happen again. But before long, another attack and yet another and even another, take place. Nigerians have been murdered in bestial and savage manners, clubbed to death, fired hot bullets, and sometimes even set ablaze. The latest incident is the wild attacks on the shops and properties of Nigerians and other African nationals, in which their properties were burnt and generally damaged.

It is even worse knowing that these attacks are more often unprovoked. They call them xenophobic attacks. The anger is that immigrant Nigerians have literally seized the economy of the country.

It is no secret that Nigerians are enterprising and hardworking, unlike the South Africans who are largely lazy, lousy and uneducated. This needles the South Africans to an envious pitch, leading to the attacks.

Yet again, the government has said “Enough is Enough’. It will not be the first or tenth time the Nigerian government had said so. There is no guaranty that, even hereafter, this nonsense will not occur again.

Perhaps for the first time, the Nigerian government is taking a more decisive set of actions to register its displeasure in the rounds of unprovoked attacks and killings of Nigerians in South Africa.

Last Tuesday, the federal government despatched a special envoy to the South African government , just as the South African ambassador to Nigeria was summoned and told in very clear terms that the reoccurring cases of attacks were no longer acceptable. Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, the Nigerian minister of Foreign Affairs declared that the red line had been drawn, including demanding for compensation for the properties damaged. But who will compensate for the lives lost?

Further more, the Nigerian ambassador to South Africa has not only been recalled, Nigeria, as well as some other African countries have similarly pulled out of the World Economic Forum, holding in South Africa, all to emphatically register their displeasure on the offensives.

Worse still, the Nigerian government has concluded flight arrangements with Air Peace to evacuate Nigerians willing to come back home from the killing field which South Africa has become. Indeed, the red line has been drawn.

South Africa cannot be allowed to get away with the series of xenophobic attacks against fellow Africans. The same African nations that sacrificed so much in supporting the fight against the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Nigeria particularly had been the avante guard in the crusade to free South Africa. Reports say Nigeria had spent as much as $61 billion to free South Africa and some other countries from Apartheid.

It is thus a mark of gross ingratitude for the same South Africa to turns its ire against fellow African countries, especially Nigeria. Truth is that Nigeria didn’t even have to play such great role in liberating South Africa in order to enjoy peaceful residence in South Africa.

Or did South Africans contribute anything to Nigeria’s freedom in 1960, to enjoy the peaceful and flourishing residence in Nigeria?

Beside the raw killings and other forms of attacks the ordinary South Africans have visited on Nigerians, the South African police have been responsible for the killing of many Nigerians themselves. It is remarkable that the South African police have either turned their attention away when the South African mobs descend on Nigerians, or they merely refuse to respond when they get distress calls. The degree of connivance is hugely criminal. That is why the Nigerian government is being urged to sue the South African government for the wanton killings.

Last July, a Nigerian woman, Mrs Elizabeth Ndubuisi-Chukwu, a Deputy Director–General of Chartered Insurance Institute who was in South Africa to attend a conference of African Insurers Organisation, was brutally strangled to death in her hotel room. Till date, nothing else has been heard on the crime. None of these attackers have been arrested, prosecuted and jailed in South Africa, and that is why the offensives against Nigerians have continued unabated.

It is that annoying nonchalance and complicity of the South African authorities that prompted the reprisals recorded in Nigeria last Tuesday and Wednesday, wherein some MTN offices, DSTV outlets as well as Shoprite complexes in Nigeria were attacked by some Nigerian youths in retaliation.

As opposed to how the South African police would react, the Nigeria police stood in the gap, repelling the attacks on the organisations believed to be owned by South Africans. The Nigeria Police fought the protesters and stationed truck-loads of anti-riot policemen to safeguard the commercial entities with South African interest, just as the Nigerian authorities are appealing to its nationals that “two wrongs cannot make a right” , and that the South African establishments should not be attacked.

Zimbabweans have also on their own begun reprisals against South Africa. The unprovoked violence is verily enough!

I believe that the South African government should be punished by the African Union for treating these rounds of xenophobic attacks with kid’s gloves. If anything, the South-African authorities have been tepid and rather indifferent in dealing with the menace.

It is to be expected that given the sustained hostility in the land, foreign investors, expecially from Asia and the rest of Europe will soon shift attention to other saner environments in Africa.