(Please read Part 1 – What Nigerians, Others Do to Attract Xenophobia)
In Nigeria an elite reprisal campaign has gone viral against South African businesses. It is titled BLACK SATURDAY: A CALL FOR UNITY OF AFRICA! It is trending on social media. It says:
This is a clarion call to all Nigerians home and abroad. Let’s stand against the gruesome killings of foreigners, especially Nigerians in South Africa! Let the black locals in South African know that we are no animals. We shall decry their barbaric acts and abnormalities. Join the black protest tomorrow 18 April 2015; do not shop at SHOPRITE, PICK N PAY, SPAR, STEERS, DEBONAIRS, HUNGRY LION, MR PRICE, WOOLWORTHS or any other South African mall! Don’t chill at RHAPSODY’S Lounge! Don’t renew your DStv and MTN Lines! Let’s make it a major demonstration till the message reaches Presidents Jonathan and Zuma, Zulu King, diplomatic communities and the South African government! We SAY NO TO XENOPHOBIA! #AfricaUnite
Yet again the world is forced to beam its lights and sights on South Africa because of the evil called Xenophobia – fatal hatred for foreigners – which has led to the shooting, maiming, roasting and killing of Africans mostly by black South Africans.
The news and images of Xenophobia are already brewing reprisals. Nigerians are all over South Africa and xenophobic attacks have been spreading across the country since they resurfaced in Durban in the Kwazulu Natal province a few days ago. Nigerians are just as targeted and endangered as Mozambicans, Ghanaians, Kenyans and other Africans.
Those targeted have decided not to be lame ducks. If President Jacob Zuma won’t do much more than sue for peace while the police idly watch their citizens roast, behead and butcher foreigners as well as burn down their shops and businesses,
Reprisals already began 17 April 2015 in Mozambique. Truck driver John Mashiloane, who works for Ngululu Carriers told a News24 correspondent (news24.com) that he was forced to return to South Africa after the truck he was driving was stoned a short distance from the border town of Ressano Garcia.
Mozambican national Sabelo Benito, said “We got this SMS from some people around; it’s circulating and they are saying it’s very dangerous to travel to Mbombela as South Africans are killing our brothers and sisters. They said we must also retaliate and hurt them. This is not good for us here because our visitors are now scared. Some have since said they are going back to South Africa,” said Benito.
Nigerians at home as well as those in the eye of the xenophobic storm in South Africa may begin much worse reprisal attacks anytime now. All it takes is for reports and photos to go viral about a Nigerian to die in the hands of a Durban or Joburg mob whose name and face people recognise, and South Africans may be turned on.
This crisis presents a unique opportunity for President Goodluck Jonathan to bow out of office with some diplomatic achievement having failed to bring back the Chibok girls after 365days.
Xenophobia is not limited to South Africa. Nigerians especially are being killed, harassed and humiliated on the streets of Malaysia. They are indiscriminately jailed too.
In the late 1970s Nigerians hated Ghanaians living in Lagos so much we would have recorded our first case of Xenophobia back then. That was when the stupid slang GHANA MUST GO – GMG – was coined. Nigerian artisans were losing their small trade to Ghanaians in cobbling, tailoring, house-keeping and gardening. Even in brothels, Ghanaian prostitutes had taken over.
Even in schools, they were the preferred teachers. They were hardworking and much cheaper to employ than Nigerians, so real hate brewed. Ghanaians had to run back to Ghana by the droves. If the Ghanaian government hadn’t encouraged its citizens to return home by providing transportation, many of them would have been killed. In short the hatred we showed Ghanaians then is what has multiplied over the decades as breakouts of xenophobia and we must end it right now.
The call to boycott South African businesses is a viable economic reprisal against what is going on in South Africa if it is well coordinated and massive. It should stifle profits in ways that would force its parent businesses back home to get government to move in and stop the killings.
Secondly, the federal government should stop its double speak and act. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aminu Wali shouldn’t have told newsmen in Abuja the other day that government would consider evacuating Nigerians who are willing to come back home. Nigeria should act like Ghana did; stop considering and start transporting Nigerians who are fed up with inhospitable South Africa.
Thirdly, if Jonathan’s administration could repatriate its arms and ammunition loot that was illegally flown into South Africa by Niger-Delta warlords, then it should pursue all diplomatic channels quickly to ensure President Zuma clamps down hard on his police force and local mobs.
Fourthly, it is even more important to cure Xenophobia from its roots and not just treat its ugly symptoms – the mob killings. Since 46-year-old Apartheid ended in South Africa and the blacks took over the reins of government, it is obvious that not much has been done to liberate the minds of generations of black locals.
In the words of a Nigerian married to a black South African lawyer, “These guys commit more crimes than foreigners. They are too lazy to earn a decent living for themselves. All they know is to drink themselves to stupor and have sex. Foreigners expose their laziness and that is why they hate us.”
After Zuma gets security agents to stop this current spate of xenophobic attacks, it would be naive to think that xenophobia ends too. In 2008, xenophobia claimed 80 lives in South Africa. For it not to happen again, local perpetrators of these dastardly acts should be arrested, tried and jailed. And there should be sustained public campaign against xenophobia.
Lastly, we have a responsibility to clean up Nigeria’s image in South Africa. Our folks are too desperate to make money any which way including crime in other lands and climes. Nigerians that engage in crime should be discouraged at both ends of the South African and Nigerian diplomatic spectrum.
Meanwhile, over 150 million Nigerians beat South Africans 3:1 against their 53 million population. So the xenophobic killings must stop NOW or else…