The xenophobic attacks that were carried out recently in South Africa directed at Nigerians living in South Africa have been widely criticized by Nigerians and managed to draw so much ire that some Nigerian groups like the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) threatened to destroy South African businesses in Nigeria.
In the February xenophobic attacks, more than 20 shops were targeted in Atteridgeville, 120km west of Pretoria, while in Rosettenville, an area south of the commercial capital Johannesburg, residents attacked at least 12 houses.
Diplomatic ties between Nigeria and South Africa seemed quite uncertain as the Nigerian government condemned the attacks and even called the African Union into the matter. According to Nigeria’s government, 20 Nigerians were killed in South Africa last year and 116 victims had been recorded in two years.
A protest march against “migrant crime” was held in Pretoria on February 24 which resulted in violent clashes between crowds of young South African men and migrants from elsewhere in Africa, including Nigeria and Somali.
The South African government who had initially insisted that Nigerians were not the targets of the xenophobic attacks seem to finally be taking some responsibility. South Africa has said that it will launch an “early warning” system with Nigeria to track and deter xenophobic attacks.
SA’s Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane met with Geoffrey Onyeama, her Nigerian counterpart on Monday and explained that the new monitor would “help prevent violence” against foreigners and their businesses.
Nkoana-Mashabane said that the monitor would meet every three months and would be made up of representatives from both countries including immigration officials, business associations, and civil society groups.
The Nigerian representative seemed hopeful that there would be an end to mass xenophobic attacks
Geoffery Onyeama said he had received assurances that Nigerians in South Africa would be able to live in peace as he called for an end to mass attacks. The necessity of such peaceful co-existence cannot be stressed as the Nigerian Union in South Africa places about 800,000 Nigerians in the country.
High unemployment and poverty levels in South Africa are believed to be the cause of reoccurring attacks against foreigners and foreign-run businesses in the country.
SA’s President, Jacob Zuma, asked that calm and restraint be exercised saying that migrants should not be used as a scapegoat for the country’s widespread crime problem.