A South African police constable, Austin Reynold, recently was sentenced to 30 years in jail by a court for killing a Nigerian man living in that country. Reynold, 24, was accused of killing Ebuka Okoli in Durban, a coastal city in Kwa Zulu-Natal province.
The court sentenced the policeman on Monday, three days after he was found guilty of shooting the victim at close range and robbing him during an unauthorised raid on a community where Okoli resided. He was charged with one count of murder and three counts of robbery. Reynold’s accomplice in the raid, Brinley Pallo, testified against him while giving his testimony before Judge Shyam Gyanda on Friday.
At last, South African authorities appear to be doing the needful about the targeting of Nigerians and other nationals in perennial xenophobic attacks by mainly black South Africans. In 2015, a number of Nigerians were killed and their businesses looted while security forces looked on unconcerned, even in some cases took part in the attacks. In September, this year, similar attacks on the businesses of immigrants took place but no Nigerian was killed.
However, the frequency of the attacks this time forced the hands of the Nigerian government to demand that its South African counterpart take immediate actions to protect Nigerians and their businesses in that country. Besides, President Muhammadu Buhari stopped Vice President Yemi Osinbajo from attending this year’s World Economic Forum summit that South was hosting. He also asked Nigerians who were willing to return home to do so.
We at Peoples Daily supported the robust response of the Buhari government to the acts of xenophobia against Nigerians doing legitimate business in South Africa. On the other hand, we condemned the South African government for not only failing to prevent the attacks but also not punishing the perpetrators. We had hoped that Buhari would cancel a scheduled state visit to South Africa in October to press home his displeasure over the maltreatment of Nigerians there.
However, the visit went ahead. With the benefit of foresight, we endorsed the visit in our editorial of Oct. 10. We said, “Given the depth of the talks between Buhari and his host (President Cyril Ramaphosa) and the wide range of decisions taken as well as the assurances given by Ramaphosa to protect Nigerians and their businesses in South Africa, the Nigerian leader’s visit had been worth the trouble. Yes, the attacks still hurt but Buhari had shown maturity and statesmanship by going ahead with the planned trip to South Africa. After all, it is said, two wrong s do not make a right.”
The conviction of a lone policeman who robbed and murdered a Nigerian is welcome. But it should be the beginning of a sustained effort at punishing killers of many other Nigerians, including elements of the South African police and military.