Cap­tains of com­merce and in­dus­try have warned of dire con­se­quences for the con­ti­nent as Africa’s two big­gest economies in­ter­mit­tently fall out over vi­o­lent at­tacks on for­eign­ers in South Africa, es­pe­cially on Nige­ri­ans.

The xeno­pho­bic vi­o­lence in Gaut­eng sparked a diplo­matic fra­cas be­tween the two coun­tries.

The strain was vis­i­ble in the past week as the South AfricaNige­ria Cham­ber of Com­merce (SA-NCC) held its board meet­ing where con­cerns were raised for busi­ness bear­ing the brunt of the xeno­pho­bic at­tacks.

This not only af­fects the small busi­nesses that have been looted or de­stroyed in Gaut­eng, but also South African multi­na­tion­als in Nige­ria and be­yond.

“Ev­ery time there are at­tacks on for­eign­ers in South Africa – and un­for­tu­nately it has not been a one-off prob­lem – the most ex­posed group in terms of ei­ther po­ten­tial re­tal­ia­tory at­tacks or hard­en­ing at­ti­tudes to South Africa in gen­eral is South African busi­nesses,” said Dianna Games, SA-NCC ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

She pointed out that multi­na­tion­als were the most vis­i­ble face of the coun­try else­where on the con­ti­nent, par­tic­u­larly com­pa­nies with con­sumer-fac­ing busi­nesses. There­fore, the hos­til­i­ties had the po­ten­tial to af­fect the busi­ness re­la­tion­ships and pos­si­bly even deals with other African mar­kets long af­ter the me­dia had lost in­ter­est in the topic.

“South Africans are gen­er­ally made to feel wel­come in Nige­ria. Their com­pa­nies are pop­u­lar em­ploy­ers. The two coun­tries are not just im­por­tant trad­ing part­ners, peo­ple in both coun­tries em­ploy na­tion­als of other African coun­tries. Cre­at­ing hos­til­ity just un­der­mines all the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of these re­la­tion­ships.”

Launched in 2005 in Sand­ton, Johannesburg, the cham­ber has been fa­cil­i­tat­ing busi­ness and net­works be­tween the two coun­tries.

Al­though there was only one large Nige­rian in­vestor in South Africa – the Dan­gote Group through its in­vest­ment in lo­cal com­pany Sephaku Ce­ment – there were many smaller Nige­ri­anowned busi­nesses, some of which em­ploy South Africans.

“Nige­ria is also one of the big­gest sup­pli­ers of crude oil to South Africa, which puts the trade bal­ance with South Africa in Nige­ria’s favour,” she said. In the midst of the diplo­matic row, SA-NCC has been in con­tact with the diplo­matic mis­sions in both coun­tries to ex­press con­cerns on be­half of its mem­bers. It fur­ther ex­pressed dis­quiet at South Africa’s re­sponse, say­ing the coun­try did not re­spond “quickly or de­ci­sively enough” to con­vince Africans else­where that it was re­ally con­cerned about the at­tacks on for­eign­ers, or de­ter­mined to stop it at all costs. Mean­while, a de­vel­op­ment eco­nomics ex­pert at the Lagos Busi­ness School, Adi Bongo, warned that while Nige­ri­ans had pre­vi­ously turned the other cheek, al­leged com­plic­ity by law en­forcers in South Africa had in­cited reprisals against South African firms lately. “Bar­baric as this may

What do you think the Nige­rian and South African govern­ments should do to ease the cri­sis? How should busi­nesses in both coun­tries work to re­solve the sim­mer­ing ten­sions and pre­vent busi­nesses from be­ing de­stroyed?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word XENO­PHO­BIA and tell us what you think. In­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50 sound in a pur­port­edly mod­ern econ­omy such as that of South Africa, we see this as a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the fail­ure of lead­er­ship char­ac­ter­is­tic of the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal elite in South Africa to­day.

“It is ob­vi­ous Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s lead­er­ship has failed to pro­duce div­i­dends for the larger ma­jor­ity of black South Africans who are now in­clined to take out their frus­tra­tion on hap­less for­eign­ers.”

Bongo spoke as Nige­rian stu­dents threat­ened South African busi­nesses op­er­at­ing in Nige­ria, while that coun­try’s Se­nate dis­patched a del­e­ga­tion to South Africa.

“It is im­por­tant that things are brought un­der con­trol in South Africa. Oth­er­wise, reprisal at­tacks and a boy­cott of South African busi­nesses in Nige­ria might be the con­se­quence,” he warned.

Act­ing na­tional po­lice com­mis­sioner Kho­motso Phahlane, who pre­sented South Africa’s crime sta­tis­tics on Fri­day, told City Press that no amount of anger or emo­tions in so­ci­ety should en­cour­age law­less­ness and peo­ple tak­ing the law into their own hands.

“We can­not con­done an at­tack on any­one, whether he is a foreign na­tional or not. We con­sider the hap­pen­ings of Roset­tenville, Pretoria West and At­teridgeville un­for­tu­nate and re­gret­table.”

Phahlane said where there are in­stances of po­lice col­lud­ing with crim­i­nals, such of­fi­cers should be re­ported.

“We can­not dis­pute there is an el­e­ment of col­lu­sion and we will ap­pre­ci­ate if fac­tual in­for­ma­tion is pre­sented to us to en­able us to take ac­tion against our own,” he said.

– CAJ News

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