Xenophobia: Nigeria spent $61b to free S’Africa – African Standard | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Xenophobia: Nigeria spent $61b to free S’Africa – African Standard

Posted: Apr 20, 2015 at 7:20 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Ekene Okoro (Lagos), Innocent Oweh and Chibuzor Emejor (Abuja)

The 21 days of violent xenophobic attacks in South Africa have drawn global outrage and condemnation in the strongest terms.

A man gestures with a stick outside a hostel during anti-immigrant violence in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 17, 2015.

A man gestures with a stick outside a hostel during anti-immigrant violence in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 17, 2015.

This latest attacks, according to analysts, are the worst since 2008 when over 60 foreign nationals were murdered.

Ironically, this is the same South Africa and other Southern African states that Nigeria spent $61 billion to free from apartheid. At least the Africa Standard Newspaper acknowledged this much when it published a banner headline in one of its edition: “Revealed! How Nigeria spent $61b to free SA, others from apartheid.”

The latest was by Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who warned on Sunday against racism and xenophobia, at a ceremony marking 70 years since the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Sachsenhausen near Berlin.

Steinmeier joined Holocaust survivors and other guests at the site built while Hitler celebrated the 1936 Olympic Games, and where tens of thousands of Jews and other inmates died.

He said Germany had an enduring responsibility not to forget its horrific past, which meant it must “stand against injustice, against any form of xenophobia and discrimination”.

He pointed to recent anti-foreigner attacks, cases of arson of refugee centres and anti-Islamic street protests as the number of asylum seekers rises sharply.

“Do we want to live in a country where there is still anti-Semitism and exclusion? Where asylum homes are set on fire? Where a young man is beaten up on a Berlin subway because he is a Jew?” asked Steinmeier.

“A country where people take to the streets in packs to rant dull slogans against anything they see as foreign? Is that our country? This is not the open country which the vast majority of Germans want.”

The attacks seem to have been ignited in Durban after Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini, reportedly said foreigners, who he accused of taking jobs belonging to locals, should leave the country.

Though Zwelithini claimed he was misinterpreted, it has not in any way quelled the attacks that have claimed the lives of about 10 persons.

The world continues to watch in utter disbelief and shock, as arsonists burn their fellow human beings alive, while security agencies in the country seem to be doing little to quell the attacks, stop the carnage and bring to book those who directly or indirectly instigated the violence.

Reports at the weekend had it that the current attacks have left about 10 persons dead, with many shops and houses owned by foreigners of African descent looted and completely razed.

Nigerians have not been spared.  At least 50 Nigerians have been reportedly affected in the attacks as at Friday.

President of the Nigerian Union in South Africa, Ikechukwu Anyene, confirmed that shops and businesses owned by Nigerians in Durban and Johannesburg have been looted and some burnt.

He said two shops belonging to Nigerians in Durban were looted and goods worth millions of naira have been lost.

His words: “We met about 300 Nigerians in Jeppes Town, near Johannesburg, who fled for their safety and about 50 of them do not have any place to stay. We are making arrangements with the Nigerian mission in South Africa to get them a place to stay for their safety. The Nigerian union has also presented relief materials to those affected by the attacks and we are in touch with various branch chapters of the union in the provinces on their safety and security.’’

According to him, Nigerian shops and businesses in Durban and Johannesburg have been looted and some burnt, adding that two shops belonging to Nigerians in Durban were looted, with goods worth 400,000 Rand lost.

“In Jeppes Town, near Johannesburg, five shops were looted and one burnt while the estimated loss is put at one million Rand.

“The incidents have been reported to the police and we are still taking stock of attacks on Nigerians,’’ he said.

Apparently pained by the ongoing attacks in South Africa, against the background of Nigeria’s activities as leader of the frontline states in the struggle to liberate the African continent, a Nigerian, Bode Bolu, referring to the African Standard publication, posted on his blog: “Even if the rank and file South Africans don’t know, even if South African talakawas don’t know, even if South African youths also don’t know, it is the duty of their political leaders and their historians to tell them that Nigeria fought for their freedom and they ought not to pay Nigeria back the way they are doing.”

Another Nigerian posted, still referring to the publication; “Fellow Nigerians guess what, we came across a photo that should remind the ignorant and ungrateful South Africans who feel the need to attack those who helped them in ways that can never be repaid.”

But what many Nigerians like Professor Itse Sagay are furious about is the fact that in the spirit of African unity, solidarity and brotherliness, African countries stood firmly with South Africans through the deployment of massive human and material resources to end apartheid.

Nigeria played a frontline role that was recognised across the continent.

According to Sagay, a Professor of Law, the attacks are not only a breach of international law, but a high level of ingratitude by a country Nigeria fought to see her freedom.

Sagay’s words, “In the first place, we were one of the major countries responsible for the freedom of South Africa to put an end to apartheid.

In fact, Nigeria was given the status of a frontline state that means that all the way from West Africa, we played a major role.

Now to see our people in South Africa being subjected to such massive violence and perpetrations; particularly at the same time, when we are the ones breathing life into major South African conglomerates, like MTN, DSTV, Shoprite and so on. It’s very disturbing.

“What’s happening is a breach of international law, the South African government is responsible and liable for what its people are doing and I am more affected by the level of ingratitude that we have received from these people who we carried on our backs in their dark days which they don’t recognise anymore.

“I am very pained by what is happening, aside the fact that it is a breach of international law, we can recall our ambassador, we can even close down diplomatic relations and we can take reprisals against their own institutions which are thriving in this country. This is the highest level of irresponsible act that I’ve ever seen.

“Their government cannot give an excuse because they have an army, they have police, they did nothing, and they allowed our people to be attacked, shot and killed. It is unacceptable.”

Sagay did not hesitate to support the evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa should the violence continue.

To this he said, “It is getting to that stage. If within the next 48 hours there is no dramatic change, our government may have to evacuate Nigerians from there. Then nationalize all South African properties and companies here and use the resources as compensation for those Nigerians who have lost their properties there”.

While there is palpable anxiety and a feeling of anger among Nigerians over the xenophobic attacks, about the safety of Nigerians in South Africa, particularly among Ndigbo whose relations constitute a larger number of Nigerian immigrants in South Africa, many are of the opinion that the country cannot be termed as Nigeria’s best of friends. But the South Africa’s telecommunication giant in Nigeria, MTN, seems to have sensed the mood of Nigerians as it, over the weekend, began using its Short Message Service (SMS) to send solidarity message to its subscribers, which read; “MTN joins the African family in condemning the attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa. Let’s all say NO to xenophobia.”

Also on Sunday, the National Association Of Nigerian Students (NANS) threatened to attack South African investments in Nigeria in view of the on-going xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

A statement issued by the NANS Public Relations Officer, Nwankwo Ezekiel, condemned the attacks of other African nationals in South Africa.

Ezekiel gave South African government seven-day ultimatum to end the unnecessary killings and destruction of property of other nationals or risk the reprisal attack of her citizens in Nigeria.

The statement reads in part, “It is with sense of brotherhood that we are mandating the South Africa government to ensure an urgent end to these killings of our own citizens within the next seven days or will leave us with no alternative than to go against all the South Africa investments in our country.





“We will not stop at this, we will make all South Africa citizens uncomfortable in our country.”



Meanwhile, factional Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Sunday, described the killings as unwarranted and shameful attacks on innocent workers in the country.

Addressing a conference in Abuja, Deputy President of the Joe Ajaero-led faction, Isa Aremu, said the current attacks, looting and killings in South Africa is a reflection of governance crisis in the continent of Africa.

His words: “The desperate and reckless actions of the jobless youths of South Africa are not unconnected with the unending disconnect between the governments and the governed in Africa.  What is happening in South Africa can happen in Nigeria. According to the ILO both Nigeria and South Africa have high levels of unemployment rates of 23.9 and 24.3 in 2014 respectively. As many as 20,000 people have died at sea trying to cross Eastern Mediterranean route in search of jobs.

“It is a clear indication of the level of bad governance going on everywhere in the continent.

“It is a very sad development that at a time the other continents are forging unity and economic integration, Africans are killing Africans in constant reckless xenophobic attacks.”

He lamented that the attacks which were ignited by comment attributed to the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini and son of Zuma, Edward asking non South Africans to leave their country was a fall out of the high unemployment rate in South Africa in particular and Africa in general.

He said NLC joins the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATUU) to condemn the reckless attacks on African workers and other nationals insisting that African workers have the right to work anywhere in the continent.