NIGE­RI­ANS FLEE SA

Hun­dreds taken to OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional to board a plane back home af­ter a week of vi­o­lence

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - LEHLO­HONOLO MASHIGO and ASANDA MATLHARE

FOR­EIGN na­tion­als flee­ing last week’s xeno­pho­bic at­tacks started leav­ing the coun­try yes­ter­day, say­ing they feared for their lives.

A wave of vi­o­lent at­tacks, mostly directed at for­eign na­tion­als, gripped parts of Gaut­eng last week and re­sulted in the loot­ing of busi­nesses and the de­struc­tion of prop­erty.

Yes­ter­day, 84 Nige­ri­ans of­fered trans­port to leave the coun­try took up the of­fer and caught the first flight back home.

They boarded the Air Peace air­craft yes­ter­day morn­ing, but more than 200 were dis­ap­pointed to be sent back be­cause they did not have valid doc­u­ments.

Nige­ria of­fered its South African-based na­tion­als the opportunit­y to re­turn home af­ter days of xeno­pho­bic loot­ing and vi­o­lence.

The vi­o­lent at­tacks be­gan in Tsh­wane af­ter a taxi driver, Jabu Baloyi, was al­legedly shot and killed by a Nige­rian na­tional.

At the peak of the un­rest in mainly the CBDs of Joburg and Tsh­wane, Nige­rian busi­ness­man Allen Onyema availed his Air Peace Air­line Ser­vice to trans­port his coun­try­men back home for free.

In a state­ment, the Nige­rian Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs ad­vised those who had rel­a­tives in South Africa to take ad­van­tage of the ges­ture and re­turn home free of charge.

“In­ter­ested Nige­ri­ans are there­fore ad­vised to li­aise with the High Com­mis­sion of Nige­ria in Pre­to­ria and the Con­sulate Gen­eral in Jo­han­nes­burg,” it read.

Frus­trated af­ter re­turn­ing from the air­port, Nige­ri­ans flocked the gates of their con­sulate in Jo­han­nes­burg yes­ter­day, de­mand­ing that they be al­lowed to re­turn home.

With their luggage packed and wrapped with air­port suit­case plas­tic still vis­i­ble, most of the re­turnees had chil­dren.

One frus­trated na­tional seeking to re­turn home, Ki­hinde Mustapha, said the chil­dren were the main rea­son most of them were turned back.

“The emer­gency travel cer­tifi­cate (ETC/TC) which most chil­dren didn’t have, was the rea­son why you see us back,” he said.

Mustapha said that his big­gest dis­ap­point­ment was that South Africans did not want to unite with the rest of the con­ti­nent.

“No coun­try can grow with­out for­eign­ers. For­eign­ers bring in­vest­ment in the coun­try, there is a Nige­rian in Malvern who owns a car deal­er­ship and he em­ploys locals,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Nige­rian Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs, 640 Nige­rian na­tion­als were regis­tered to re­turn home with the first 313 sched­uled to be flown home yes­ter­day.

Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari on Mon­day called for the im­me­di­ate vol­un­tary evac­u­a­tion of all Nige­ri­ans want­ing to re­turn home, and Air Peace of­fered free flights last week.

The rest are ex­pected to touch down in Abuja to­day and Friday.

An­other flee­ing Nige­rian na­tional, Richard Eze, placed the blame squarely on the Nige­rian govern­ment and be­lieves that they should have done more for them.

“A coun­try asks you to leave. A sin­gle in­di­vid­ual from Nige­ria says he will pro­vide an air­craft to come and evac­u­ate the peo­ple here. I ex­pect the Nige­rian govern­ment to put all pro­to­cols in place,” he said.

Eze said some peo­ple have been at the con­sulate for al­most three days.

“Now peo­ple are here they can’t even travel freely back to their own coun­try. In a case like this, what is re­quired is that you are Nige­rian whether your doc­u­ments are in place or not, just go,” he said.

He be­lieves that the Nige­rian govern­ment should have sorted out the repa­tri­a­tion lo­gis­tics to avoid the chaos of some peo­ple be­ing de­nied ac­cess to the flights.

“I ex­pect the Nige­rian con­sulate and their peo­ple to pick up the forms as you are fill­ing them in so that they are ar­rang­ing the TC.

“Then you pick up your TC and the bus takes you to the air­port and you go,” he said.

Busi­ness­man Cos­mos Jerry, who was at the Con­sulate to try and seek relief af­ter seven of his cars were torched at his Jo­han­nes­burg-based lit­tle deal­er­ship dur­ing the loot­ing, was frus­trated af­ter he could not be helped.

“I came here for some­thing else but the place is packed and the matter can­not be checked.

“They told me they are still try­ing to re­solve the doc­u­men­ta­tion of those want­ing to leave,” he said.

He said the peo­ple he has had con­ver­sa­tions with at the Con­sulate are des­per­ate to leave South Africa.

“What they need is that the am­bas­sador should have pre­pared the doc­u­ments for them. I think they did not make proper arrangemen­ts with South African emi­gra­tion of­fi­cials, if they did there wouldn’t be such a prob­lem,” he said.

In the lat­est on the pe­ri­odic xeno­pho­bic vi­o­lence in South Africa, at least 10 South Africans have died and a fur­ther two for­eign­ers.

| AP

NIGE­RIAN fam­i­lies with chil­dren and luggage queue at pass­port con­trol in OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port yes­ter­day.

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