XENO­PHO­BIA ‘FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE’

Other African na­tions and im­mi­grants in SA are threat­en­ing to fight fire with fire af­ter xeno­pho­bic at­tacks in Mzansi

CityPress - - Front Page - EMEKA OKONKWO and OKORO CHINEDU in ABUJA, RUS­SELL ADADEVOH in AC­CRA, and SAVIOUS KWINIKA in JO­HAN­NES­BURG news@city­press.co.za

Bit­ter­ness is brew­ing to­wards South Africans in African coun­tries with a pres­ence of South African na­tion­als and busi­ness in­ter­ests, with fur­ther reprisals threatened in re­tal­i­a­tion for the out­breaks of xeno­pho­bic vi­o­lence that have oc­curred in Mzansi. Thurs­day’s at­tack by mem­bers of the Na­tional Youth Coun­cil (NYC) of Nige­ria on MTN of­fices in Abuja, the cap­i­tal – in which sev­eral mil­lion nairas’ worth of gad­gets were stolen and the of­fices van­dalised – ap­pears to be the tip of the ice­berg.

Adults joined frus­trated youths as they vowed to in­ten­sify vi­o­lence against all South African com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in Nige­ria, the con­ti­nent’s largest econ­omy, in re­tal­i­a­tion for on­go­ing as­saults meted out against Nige­ri­ans in South Africa, par­tic­u­larly in Gaut­eng, where they have been ac­cused of run­ning drug and pros­ti­tu­tion car­tels.

Chief Emeka John­son, pres­i­dent of the South African chap­ter of All Nige­rian Na­tion­als in Di­as­po­ras, said Nige­rian en­trepreneurs had closed their busi­nesses in Gaut­eng as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure un­til fur­ther no­tice.

“We urge all Nige­ri­ans to al­ways live in clus­ters in case they are at­tacked. We also call upon Nige­rian par­ents to with­draw their chil­dren from schools in Gaut­eng,” John­son said, adding that Nige­ri­ans had lost con­fi­dence in the po­lice and govern­ment.

“We will con­tinue re­spect­ing the rule of law. How­ever, I urge all Nige­ri­ans to de­fend them­selves when pro­voked and at­tacked,” he said.

Osita Owoh, a mem­ber of Nige­ria’s NYC, which at­tacked MTN of­fices in Abuja, agreed.

“South Africans al­ways be­lieve other African na­tions are stupid or scared of them, when what we pre­fer is diplo­macy,” he said.

“Enough is enough. I be­lieve now is the time to re­turn fire with fire.”

The at­tack came af­ter Nige­ria’s govern­ment re­ported that more than 116 of its cit­i­zens had been killed over the past two years in xeno­pho­bic flare­ups. How­ever, these could be among the 18 000 mur­dered an­nu­ally in or­di­nary crimes.

La­gos-based tech­nol­ogy en­tre­pre­neur Olu Okeniyi, also a mem­ber of the NYC, said more South African busi­nesses and their man­agers op­er­at­ing in Nige­ria needed to be as­saulted to counter xeno­pho­bic at­tacks in South Africa.

South Africa has 120 com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in Nige­ria, in­clud­ing MTN, Sho­prite, Eskom Nige­ria, Pro­tea Ho­tels, SAA, Stan­bic Mer­chant Bank of Nige­ria, Mul­tiChoice and the re­tailer Pep.

“The best way to de­fend is to at­tack ... if only [ter­ror­ist group] Boko Haram could stop killing fel­low Nige­ri­ans and chan­nel their vi­o­lence to the com­mon en­emy, South Africa,” Okeniyi said in La­gos.

Ear­lier this week, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, se­nior spe­cial as­sis­tant to Nige­ria’s Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari on for­eign af­fairs and di­as­pora, de­nounced the al­leged killing of Nige­ri­ans over the past two years.

“We have lost about 116 Nige­ri­ans in the past two years. And in 2016 alone, about 20 were killed.

“This is un­ac­cept­able to the peo­ple and govern­ment of Nige­ria,” he said, be­fore sum­mon­ing South Africa’s High Com­mis­sioner to Nige­ria, Lulu Mn­guni, to ac­count for the xeno­pho­bic on­slaught.

How­ever, Dabiri-Erewa called for re­straint among Nige­ri­ans.

In Ac­cra, the cap­i­tal of Ghana, me­chanic Ebo An­twi – a mem­ber of the Ghana Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Garages, whose mem­bers also run garages in Gaut­eng – said re­straint against South African in­ter­ests was not the an­swer.

“South Africans are just be­ing bullies and are a vi­o­lent lot. They need to be ganged-up against and stopped in their tracks,” said An­twi.

He pointed out that South Africans con­ve­niently for­got they were en­joy­ing free­dom, peace and tran­quil­lity as a re­sult of sac­ri­fices made by other African coun­tries.

“It beats me to the bone mar­row to see South Africans at­tack­ing and burn­ing fel­low Africans sim­ply for run­ning busi­nesses,” said An­twi.

There is a sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence of South African com­pa­nies in Ghana, in­clud­ing MTN, Stan­dard Bank, Gold Fields, Wool­worths, En­gen, Mul­tiChoice, Stan­bic, Sho­prite and Steers.

“I call upon Ghana­ians to join forces with other African na­tion­al­i­ties be­ing butchered in South Africa to also re­tal­i­ate, by de­stroy­ing South African com­pa­nies in their re­spec­tive coun­tries,” said An­twi.

His com­pa­triot, Kwaw Men­sah, agreed: “Ghana­ians are peace-lov­ing peo­ple, but what is hap­pen­ing in South Africa is mad­ness that should be ruth­lessly dealt with by any means nec­es­sary.”

In Gaut­eng, na­tion­als from dif­fer­ent African coun­tries – in­clud­ing Ethiopi­ans, So­ma­lians, Mozam­bi­cans, Malaw­ians, Nige­ri­ans, Tan­za­ni­ans, Zam­bians and Zim­bab­weans – have joined forces and threatened to mo­bilise in the event of a re­cur­rence of at­tacks by South Africans.

So­mali en­tre­pre­neur Khalid Ab­di­aziz is part of the pact. “For too long, we have been quiet while our lazy South African col­leagues come to loot our goods and de­stroy prop­erty, claim­ing we are tak­ing their jobs,” he said.

“Are you sug­gest­ing the spaza I am run­ning is tak­ing any­one’s job? Is sell­ing toma­toes and veg­eta­bles in the streets steal­ing a job? We will hit back if con­fronted.”

Mozam­bi­can Simão Al­berto said his com­pa­tri­ots in Mozam­bique were on “high alert” for the pos­si­bil­ity of at­tacks against Mozam­bi­cans in South Africa.

“Many of our own peo­ple have been killed in pre­vi­ous at­tacks, with­out any ac­tion taken against per­pe­tra­tors. South Africans have al­ways be­haved like Drac­ula and vam­pires. This time, we are go­ing tit for tat,” said Al­berto.

Com­ment­ing on Fri­day’s out­break of vi­o­lence in Pretoria, Gaut­eng pro­vin­cial po­lice spokesper­son Lieu­tenant Kay Makhubela said 136 peo­ple, mainly South Africans, were ar­rested on pub­lic vi­o­lence charges. The sus­pects will ap­pear in court to­mor­row.

“Let me also warn mem­bers of the pub­lic that whoso­ever breaks the law, whether South African or for­eigner, the law will al­ways take its course,” he said. –

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