The latest spate of destruction of lives and property of African migrants on Sunday through Monday, in South Africa is highly touching especially after video evidence showed gory sights of burnt cars, broken shops and people jumping from a high rise building set ablaze by angry youths.
This is a climax to several attacks particularly on Nigerians and other Africans started in that country since 2008. According to reports, since 2016 till date, about 200 Nigerians have been killed, the recent being the mysterious and unresolved death of Deputy Director-General of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria, Elizabeth Ndubuisi-Chukwu, who was found dead at the Emperors Palace Hotel and Convention Centre on June 13, 2019.
Coming on the heels of the Ndubuisi-Chukwu case, was that of Master Chinonso Dennis Obiaju, 17, a Nigerian high school student who was shot dead in Johannesburg on Saturday, July 21.
Similarly, in 2015, there were reports that South Africans unleashed mayhem on African migrant workers beginning in the coastal region of KwaZulu-Natal, spreading to other cities and provinces in the country, especially Johannesburg where many migrants, namely Zimbabweans, Malawians, Mozambicans, Ethiopians and Nigerians among others, were attacked and had their shops and property looted.
At the time, Nigerians losses alone was put at about 1.3 million rands (N21 million). The 2015 attack appeared to have been ignited by the Zulu King, Godswill Zwelithini, who told foreigners to “pack their bags and leave,” a hate-phrase said to have been equally re-echoed by the former South African President’s son, Edward Zuma.
Following this lead, it demonstrates clearly that the groundswell of these attacks did not emanate from spontaneity but organized or encouraged from high quarters. The comments of the South African deputy police minister, Ongani Mkongi during a media briefing preceding the latest attacks, indicate another subtext of official complicity.
Mr. Mkongi raised the fear that the South African population is being outnumbered by foreigners. Referring to Hillbrow, a section of Johanesburg with very large African migrant workers and businesses, he asked, “how can a city in South Africa be 80 percent foreign nationals, that is dangerous… a future president of South Africa could be a foreign national”.
These words especially by a police boss explains the rough hand methods used against Nigerians by the police which we can logically call a tacit order from the South African government.
Despite the big-brother role Nigeria played for the abolition of apartheid in South Africa, and the support given to South African businesses in Nigeria to thrive, Nigerians are still being attacked and mindlessly killed in South Africa.
We join other individuals, organisations and institutions at home and abroad in disparaging these acts of infamy. While we commend President Muhammadu Buhari for dispatching envoys to President Cyril Ramaphosa, the African Union and the United Nations must swiftly wade into the matter.
We understand that a significant narrative for this crisis is the socio-economic condition of the ordinary South African.
The South Africa-based Human Sciences Research Council once identified four broad causes of this violence, namely relative deprivation, evident in lack of jobs, commodities, and housing; group processes underlined by psychological socialisation that tend towards nationalism which induces a sense of superiority, however false, over other Africans and; exclusive citizenship that seeks to keep the country for South Africans, excluding others.
The point must be made that ordinary South Africans often feel a particular animus towards migrants, who are sometimes more aggressive and entrepreneurial than their hosts, inducing envy and inferiority complex on their part. To be sure, black majority rule has not delivered the promises of inclusion and prosperity to the majority of South Africans. The economic differentiation between white and black South Africans remains firmly entrenched and no significant redistribution of the economic privileges has taken place.
These issues must be addressed through deliberate policies that however aligns with international best practices rather than incitements that will, in the long run, prove detrimental to South Africa’s interests at home and abroad.