XENOPHOBIA ‘FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE’
Other African nations and immigrants in SA are threatening to fight fire with fire after xenophobic attacks in Mzansi
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. –