The Federal Government of Nigeria has summoned Bobby Moroe, the South Africa High Commissioner to Nigeria, following the latest xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals, including, Nigerians living in South Africa.
Moroe was summoned by Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, to his office in Abuja on Tuesday. The action, in diplomatic practice, is a form of expression of displeasure with the country whose envoy is summoned.
The minister, who held a closed door meeting with the ambassador, is believed to have expressed the anger of Nigeria over the recent attacks on foreigners, including Nigerians, in South Africa, and to demand that something concrete be done to stop them.
In the same vein, Nigeria’s Consul General in South Africa, Godwin Adama, wants decisive action taken against looters.
“Tackle the situation decisively, because from what I have heard, people were allowed to go looting and getting out without anyone stopping them,” Adama said in an interview with a South African TV station.
The South African government has condemned the attacks.
News reports of the latest attacks on Monday say some foreigners, suspected to be Tanzanians were said to have fought with taxi drivers in an area of Pretoria, which reportedly led to the death of one taxi driver.
The protest reportedly degenerated into violence as shops and houses belonging to foreigners were looted and burnt in the Pretoria Central Business District on Lilian Ngoyi Street. The protest subsequently spread to other cities in the country.
Adetola Olubajo, President of the Nigerian Union in South Africa, confirmed that three persons were killed in the xenophobic attack, in an interview with the Nigerian daily Punch. [The police has confirmed on Tuesday that 5 persons were killed, without revealing their nationalities, adding that 189 people had been arrested.]
“We cannot ascertain how many have been injured for now. But according to the information at our disposal, three people have been killed and they were killed in the fire incident yesterday (Sunday) morning in Jeppestown, Johannesburg,” said Olubajo told the newspaper.
He stated that the identities of the deceased had not been revealed, but added that they were not Nigerians.
“If they were Nigerians, we would have got information about them,” said Olubajo. He further disclosed that Nigerians living in South Africa were not safe.
“They are not safe; no Nigerian is safe in that area, especially in the Johannesburg environs because these groups of attackers are very coordinated and organised,” said Olubajo.
“So, what they do is to target a particular area where foreign nationals are densely populated and not only Nigerians are targets; they target all foreign nationals.”
Incessant attacks on foreign nationals living in South Africa and the looting of their businesses threaten to sour relations between the country and fellow African nations, whose citizens are affected, observers say.
Sporadic violence against foreign-owned stores and enterprises has a long history in South Africa, where many locals blame immigrants for high unemployment.
The latest attacks began after South African lorry drivers started a nationwide strike to protest against the employment of foreign drivers. They blocked roads and torched foreign-driven vehicles mainly in the coastal KwaZulu-Natal province. It comes at a time of high unemployment rate of nearly 28%.
Some foreigners are also accused of being involved in pushing illegal drugs.
A taxi driver was allegedly shot dead in Pretoria last week when he confronted foreign nationals thought to be selling drugs to young people.
South African companies, such as Shoprite, MTN and DSTv, have investments across the continent and soured relations could affect their businesses. Already, they’ve been open calls for a boycott of South African companies in Nigeria and radical youths are even talking of staging attacks on their premises in the country as a form of revenge.
The government of President Cyril Ramaphosa has always condemned the attacks but done nothing effective to prevent them, critics say.