Following last weekend’s xenophobic attacks on foreigners in South Africa, a Nigerian automobile mechanic has recounted how he lost N240.650 million (R10 million) in his workshop.
Speaking to pressmen from Pretoria, South Africa, 42-year-old Simon Adeoye narrates that he got a call on the day of the incident that his workshop had been set ablaze and rushed to the place only to discover that he could do nothing to salvage his assets.
Adeoye said he lost 29 different car brands, some Nigerian passports, documents of the workshop, money and other personal effects which had been destroyed by the fire. He added that some of the cars belonged to South Africans and others were being repaired for sale.
He said officials of the Nigerian mission have visited the workshop to do an assessment of the damage as well as commiserated with him on the incident.
The distraught young man further appealed to the Federal Government to assist him in getting back to business. He also pleaded with the Nigerian mission to replace the passports gutted by fire to enable affected Nigerians have their documents back. He said;
“At the moment, I have lost everything I have. I need urgent help to re-start my business. This will also assist me pay my workers who have families to cater for.”
On Feb. 20, there were renewed xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in the South African capital, Pretoria where businesses and churches were reportedly set ablaze.
About 15 houses belonging to or rented by foreigners, especially Nigerians, were burnt by angry demonstrators in, Rosettenville, Johannesburg, South Africa.
The police said at least 20 shops, possibly belonging to immigrants, were looted in South Africa’s capital overnight, but they could not confirm if the attacks had deliberately targeted foreigners.
However, reports from some quarters say South Africans were angry that foreign nationals had turned their neighbourhood into a drug haven. There were also reports of looting of shops belonging to foreign nationals in the area.
South Africa residents in the area claim Nigerians had illegally taken over most properties and turned them into drug and prostitution dens.
Apparently alarmed by these fresh attacks, the Nigeria government has gone straight to the African Union to urge the continental body to step in before previous years’ killings are repeated. Nigeria’s foreign ministry had also summoned South Africa’s envoy to raise its concerns over “xenophobic attacks” on Nigerians, other Africans and Pakistanis.
More so, a group of “concerned” South African citizens are reportedly planning a march on Feb. 24 with xenophobic undertones that have alarmed the African Diaspora Forum.
In a letter, the African Diaspora Forum has immediately alerted South Africa’s president, urging him to act. They wrote; “We write to you so that when South Africa experiences a repeat of the 2008 xenophobic violence which left at least 62 people dead, you will not be surprised.”
In reaction, South Africa’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Amb. Lulu Mnguni, has condemned the recent attacks on Nigerians saying they were a poor representation of South Africa’s values.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Mnguni said that the attacks on Nigerians negated all the values that that country symbolises, especially the respect for human life, human rights and human dignity standing firmly against racism, xenophobia and sexism.
He also said that the South African government had taken measures to ensure that these attacks perceived as hate crimes against Nigerians and other foreign nationals were stopped.
Anti-immigrant violence has flared sporadically in South Africa, (which has a population of about 50 million, and is home to an estimated five million immigrants) against a background of near-record unemployment, with foreigners being accused of taking jobs from locals and getting involved in crime.
In April 2015, Nigeria recalled its top diplomat in South Africa to discuss anti-immigrant attacks which killed at least seven people and sent hundreds of foreigners fleeing to safety camps, as authorities sent in soldiers to quell unrest in Johannesburg and Durban.
In 2008, at least 67 people were killed in anti-immigrant violence, with thousands of people fleeing to refugee camps.That year’s wave of xenophobic attacks left thousands displaced, 342 immigrant-owned shops looted and 213 burned down.
After the 2008 and 2015 attacks, the South African government promised to set up special courts, but the last of that case is yet to be heard.