Xenophobia: Ezekwesili, Nigerians in South Africa suggest steps to end attacks

Oby Ezekwesili
Oby Ezekwesili

Nigerians living in South Africa have outlined steps Nigerian and South African authorities need to take to end xenophobia in the rainbow country.

One of these is that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa should offer a “sincere public apology to Nigeria, other countries affected by the attacks and the entire continent for the tragic hostility and harm perpetrated against their citizens.”

These demands were highlighted in a communique issued after a meeting of the Nigerian Community Western Cape (NCWC) with Oby Ezekwesili, a former Nigerian minister.

The meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Cape Town was attended by Nigerian entrepreneurs, professionals and the Nigerian community-led by Cosmos Echie.

Although Nigeria boycotted the WEF as part of its protests against xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other Africans in South Africa, Mrs Ezekwesili, Nigeria’s former ministers of Education and solid minerals, attended the event, an action that drew her public backlash.

According to a copy of the communique from the meeting seen by PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, South Africa and Nigeria should have a mutual legal assistance cooperation scheme on crimes involving their citizens.

“The President of South Africa should send a sharp signal to South Africans and the continent by visiting the victims of the “Afrophobia” attacks to empathise with and reassure them of their safety in South Africa and the government should consider paying compensations for losses sustained in the attacks,” the communique also recommended.

The meeting also advised the South African government to take actions to de-escalate the conflict.

This, the group said, would ensure that bilateral trade agreements between the countries would not be affected.

“Officials of the government of South Africa must immediately desist from making any further pejorative and incendiary comments targeting Nigerians and their country and instead publicly commit to taking preventive and surveillance measures that will foreclose a repeat of Afrophobic attacks of Nigerians and other African nationals.

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“The President of South Africa, Cyril Remaphosa, should rise to the demands of leadership and reach out to the President of Nigeria to trigger the series of dialogue and actions necessary for swift de-escalation of the brewing conflict between their two countries”, the Communique read in part.

“The Nigerian High Commission and Nigerians in South Africa should design a fact-based campaign to widely convey the accurate and positive narrative of the value they contribute to their host country. For example, South Africans must be made aware that more than 18 per cent of lecturers in their higher institutions are Nigerians. A significant percentage of medical personnel in rural hospitals are Nigerians. Most Nigerians and Nigerian-owned businesses operate responsibly in legitimate and professional practices in South Africa compared to the less than one per cent of cases of shadowy activities.

“The Nigerian government should make visible effort to guarantee the safety and security of South Africans and their businesses in Nigeria.”

Xenophobia

Over the years, violent attacks on Nigerians and other Africans have regularly erupted in South Africa mostly because South Africans accuse foreigners of dealing in drugs or taking their jobs.

The most recent xenophobic attacks started in the first week of September in parts of South Africa.

At least 10 deaths have been recorded, including two foreigners, and many businesses destroyed, prompting Nigeria to recall its ambassador while President Muhammadu Buhari sent a special envoy to South Africa.

The South African government who had largely blamed the attacks on criminals, on Thursday admitted that some of it were being driven by xenophobia.

President Ramaphosa had also called for an end to the attacks and ordered a crackdown on those fomenting xenophobic violence across the country.

But fresh violence broke out Sunday afternoon when hostel residents across the commercial hub of Johannesburg took to the streets to demand the deportation of foreigners, eNCA television reported.

At least one fatality was recorded and five people received treatment at the hospital following the attack, the local media reported.

This newspaper had earlier reported that renewed protests on Sunday could complicate ongoing dialogue over the crisis and cast renewed doubts over South African political leadership’s capacity to contain the riots.

Nigeria’s Consul General in Johannesburg, Godwin Adama, told the News Agency of Nigeria that about 400 Nigerians had indicated interest to return home after a domestic airline, Air Peace, offered to bring back Nigerians from South Africa.

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