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Assessing Impact Of Xenophobic Attacks On Nigerians In South Africa

Mike Mbonye

Lucky Ndudi is a Nigerian resident in Jeppes, a town near Johannesburg in South Africa. In the early hours of April 11, some irate South Africans on rampage, carrying out xenophobic attacks on foreigners, attacked his mechanic workshop. Ndudi’s workshop with all accessories, including 11 cars awaiting repairs, was burnt down. Mr Ikechukwu Anyene, the President of Nigerian Union in South Africa, said that Ndudi’s loss alone was estimated at 1 million Rand (N20 million). Mr Ifediorah Ifeanyi, who also owns a vehicle repair workshop in Johannesburg, also had a similar fate, as he was not spared a harrowing ordeal in the hands of the attackers.

In the assault, everything in his workshop was razed. Other Nigerians like Kelly Moses , Izuchukwu Aniama and Samson Ozihegbe were also targets of the xenophobic attacks, Anyene said. “Their shops were looted and they lost everything; they have to start afresh and look for a new means of livelihood.

“The losses incurred by Nigerians comprised looted shops, burnt shops, burnt mechanic workshops, burnt cars and stolen cars. “Some Nigerians were also attacked and wounded; they were, however, treated and discharged from hospital,’’ he added. A provocative statement made by Zulu King, Goodswill Zwelithini suggesting that foreigners should leave South Africa sparked the xenophobic attacks.

Zwelithini has since d e n i e d m a k i n g such comments. Funny enough, one of South African President Jacob Zuma’s sons, Edward, shared similar sentiments. Nigerians and citizens of other African countries were targets of xenophobic attacks by South Africans, leading to loss of lives, property and displacements. Anyene said that although no Nigerian was reported killed during the attacks, the violence took its toll on many Nigerians living in South Africa. Mr Bartholomew Eziagulu, the Public Relations Officer of the Kwazulu Natal Province chapter of the Nigerian Union, cited some Nigerians who were affected by the attacks. “The Nigerian Union in South Africa has completed the documentation of the losses suffered by Nigerians due to xenophobic attacks.

“Nigerians lost more than 4.6 million Rand or N84 million during the attacks. A mechanic workshop owned by a Nigerian in Jeppes, near Johannesburg, was completely burnt with 11 cars inside it. The loss is put at more than 1 million Rand or N20 million,’’ he said. Besides, Anyene said that more than 50 Nigerians were displaced during the attacks. “The Nigerian Union and the Nigerian Mission in South Africa took steps to re-settle these hapless Nigerians. The union assisted them to return home,’’ he said. The Nigerian Mission in South Africa also came to the aid of Nigerians during the attacks. Amb. Uche Ajulu-Okeke, Nigeria’s Consul-General in South Africa, said that the mission took immediate steps to ensure the safety of Nigerians. She said that she had to travel to Durban, one of the worst hit cities in South Africa, to assess the impact of the attacks on Nigerians.

“The Nigerian Mission in South Africa is on top of the situation. We are working hard to protect all Nigerians living in South Africa. “Although the task has not been easy, we are trying our best. In one of the hot spots at Jeppes, near Johannesburg, the mission assisted more than 50 stranded Nigerians to re-settle. “I have also visited the site of the attacks in Johannesburg to assess the damage and it was enormous,’’ she said. Okeke, however, conceded that in all the visits, the provincial authorities provided her with security to enable her to carry out the on-the-spot assessment of the damage done to property owned by Nigerians.

The envoy said that the Nigerian mission also met with all the chapters of the Nigerian Union in the nine provinces of South Africa to look at ways of checking the attacks. “I brought all Nigerians together, so as to work out a vigilance and alert mechanism. They also told the mission their challenges and other issues,’’ she said. Okeke said the mission and the Nigerian Union had been working in concert in efforts to meet the emerging challenges caused by the xenophobic attacks. She said that some Nigerians had indicated their interest to return home due to the attacks. “The Nigerian mission is in touch with them and will assist them to return home,’’ she said.

Anyene said that although the South African Government had put the situation under control, Nigerians affected by the attacks needed urgent assistance. He added that Nigerian victims of the attacks needed urgent assistance to enable them to settle because they had lost their means of livelihood. “The Consul-General has travelled to Nigeria and we have appealed to the Federal Government to do something urgent to assist Nigerians affected by the attacks.

“We have made a representation to the Federal Government. We are also hoping that they are working with the South African government to find a way of compensating the affected Nigerians so as to facilitate their living their normal lives again,’’ he said. Back home in Nigeria, some concerned citizens have been reacting to the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa and one of them is Mr. Ajomiwe Ezuma, a Port-Harcourt based historian.

“The reported attacks are indeed a shame to Africa. There is absolutely no need for these attacks. “The South African government should put a stop to it and, indeed, ensure that it never happens again0. “My fear is that future attacks could lead to retaliations from affected countries and this will not be in Africa’s interest. “It is now up to the South African government to ensure that xenophobic attacks do not happen again,’’ he said. Analysts insist that the outrage, which greeted the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa, ought to serve as a bitter lesson to the perpetrators of the act to end their killing or maiming of fellow Africans. (NANFeatures)

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