XENEPHOBIA has reared its ugly head once again in South Africa with local gangs waging violence against immigrant African communities and looting their shops in scenes reminiscent of 2008 and 2015 when scores of foreigners were killed.
In less than a week two xenophobic attacks have been reported in Pretoria West, with homes belonging to Nigerian nationals and properties allegedly used as brothels, set alight by rampaging gangs of youths.
On Monday, Nigeria’s president urged the South African government to step in to stop xenephobic attacks following recent reports of violence against Nigerians and other nationals in the capital, Pretoria.
Ike Anyene a spokesman for the Nigerian Union in South Africa has also condemned the attacks on Nigerians, saying they are motivated by misperceptions about Nigerian nationals.
“Nigeria can’t be defined by the activities of few individuals that are engaged in crime. We feel their pain (South Africans) as we are part of society and community,” Anyene said. “We re afraid that the xenephobic attacks will flare up again like in 2008 and 2015. We are hoping that doesn’t happen.”
It is estimated that around 800,000 Nigerian nationals are living in South Africa.
A Nigerian man who lives in Pretoria West spoke to Team Buntu Africa, on condition of anonymity, about the raid on his home by a gang carrying all manner of weaponry.
“What I witnessed today with my wife and kids has left me with no other choice but to arm myself even if that means getting an illegal firearm to protect my family,” he said. “They broke into our apartment and robbed another Yoruba man upstairs of his flat screen TV after breaking into his flat. He had to take cover in a flat owned by a white lady in the building. Their excuse was that they were looking for people selling drugs. But these are just criminals. We didn’t expect this when we came to South Africa.”
Meanwhile, police in Pretoria say they have arrested 42 people following violence in Rosettenville earlier this month.
According to Gauteng Provincial Police Commissioner, Lieutenant General Deliwe de Lange 27 of those arrested were undocumented foreign nationals. One person was arrested for carrying an illegal firearm, while another 14 were arrested for possession of drugs or dealing in drugs.
However, sources in Pretoria say tensions are still high in the city following the anti-illegal immigrant march on Thursday when residents handed a memorandum to the Department of Home Affairs in a march against illegal immigration.
Meanwhile, a source in Nigeria told Team Buntu Africa that the country’s foreign affairs minister yesterday summoned the South African envoy following attacks on Nigerian citizens in Pretoria, after appealing for the intervention of the African Union.
“The ministry has condemned the attacks and cautioned South Africa that this will jitter unnecessary tension between the two countries,” the source said.
However, the South African government has dismissed xenophobic claims and said there was no need for African Union intervention in the matter.
South Africa maintains that its citizens are not xenophobic and that the recent attacks on Nigerians were in response to rampant drugs and prostitution common in the vandalized centres.
*Popular South African comedian, Trevor Noah who presents The Daily Show on a US television channel has lambasted South Africans who blame African immigrants for a shortage of job opportunities. See article entitled: TREVOR NOAH OPEN LETTER TO SOUTH AFRICANS LAMENTS TENDENCY TO CASTIGATE IMMIGRANT AFRICANS