In apparent response to the destruction of cars and businesses belonging to Nigerians and other African nationals in South Africa on Sunday, a mob on Tuesday, burnt one of the offices of South Africa’s Telecom giant, MTN in Apapa, Lagos.
Mobs in South Africa had between Sunday and Monday, in what was a continuation of xenophobic attacks in the country, killed at least three individuals, looted and burnt properties belonging to foreigners, including Nigerians.
The President of the Nigeria Union South Africa, Adetola Olubajo had told the News Agency of Nigeria on Monday that the attacks began on Sunday morning in Jeppestown area of Johannesburg when a building was set ablaze by an angry mob.
“The mob also looted several shops that were around the vicinity suspected to be owned by foreign nationals.
“But the Police later dispersed the mob and made some arrests. Late in the evening of Sunday, September 1, a group of violent locals suspected to be Zulu hostel dwellers besieged Jules Street in Malvern, Johannesburg looted and burned shops/businesses.’’
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has disclosed that the government will deploy its police to South Africa in order to stem the tide of the attacks.
Onyeama who spoke in Abuja when the Federal Government summoned the Acting South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Bobby Moroe over the attacks, noted that there had been another spate of looting and burning of properties belonging to Nigerians in South Africa in recent time.
The Minister said he had in the past, travelled to South Africa, alongside the then Minister of Interior during which the Federal Government proposed an Early Warning Mechanism system to check the ugly situation, but regretted, however, that the memorandum of understanding which captured the proposal had not been signed.
He stated that the disadvantage was that there is no framework for the relevant parties such as high level officials of the South African Government, the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa, the Consulate General of Nigeria in South Africa and the Nigeria Union in South Africa to meet regularly, informing each other of developments regularly, anticipating events and prepared to pre-empt such attacks as being witnessed today, including taking other measures such as compensation, amongst others.
“The immediate concern is to have in place a robust mechanism that will pre-empt these attacks and if they break out, that will react very, very quickly to put them down and that will also be providing adequate oversight over the security of vulnerable groups such as Nigerians in South Africa,” he said.
“So, this is why we feel that as a first step, we send, if the South African Government agrees with us, some Nigerian Police, attached to the Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria and if again the South African Government agrees, that we might even have some Nigeria Police embedded within the South African Police Force to deal with matters concerning Nigerians in South Africa.
“So Nigerian criminality, as well as South African criminality targeting Nigerians, we believe that the advantage of this will be that the law enforcement, the police itself, will have the benefit of Nigeria input in their engagement with Nigeria community and with threats against Nigerian community.
“And we believe that this will be a game-changer and it will give confidence to the Nigerian community in South Africa and it will also give an added input really to the South African Police because of course, Nigeria Police will understand Nigerians better and will probably be in a position to provide certain intelligence that might not be available to the South African Police.
“So we believe that it will be a very important synergy in achieving the aims that we want to achieve. We believe that if the two sides, South African Government and Nigerian Government are really working together, really want to address this issue and take those particular steps, that it will be very, very much difficult to have the scale of damage that we have witnessed in the past. And if after that there are still attacks, of course we have to reassess the measures that we have taken and see where they need to be improved otherwise,” he noted.
The Minister noted earlier that he invited Moroe and both of them had lengthy discussions, even as he acknowledged the statement issued by the South African Government to condemn the attacks.
“So, we have to put in place, we must put in place and we will put in place, mechanisms to ensure that this do not reoccur. We have made very concrete proposals to the South African Government today and we believe that if those measures are implemented, we have a very, very good chance of ensuring that this does not re-occur,” he said.
“We are going to absolutely push for that and secondly, we believe that, but I will not go into that much detail on that, but that the two security forces, South Africa and Nigeria, we can arrange, have an arrangement where there will be cooperation on the ground in South Africa to arrest such events and occurrences.
“And this is obviously something that we will have to work out details with the South African Government and hopefully, see us addressing at the field level, if I can call it that, the challenges posed by this incessant attacks.
“So, we have put that forward through the South African Government, very, very clear proposals and we will be discussing those and hopefully, the South African Government will support us in that initiative as we believe that it will make all the difference,” Onyeama added.
On his part, Moroe described the attacks as unfortunate, noting however, that his invitation was a reflection of the cordial relations that both countries enjoyed, including the peoples.
“It is therefore quite very unfortunate that we found ourselves in a situation that we found ourselves in now. The government has issued a statement yesterday, condemning the acts of violence and acts of criminality,” he said.
“For us, these are acts that continue to demonstrate that there are criminals within the society that seeks to destabilize the country, there are criminals who seek to create an impression that South Africans do not subscribe to the principle of Ubuntu.”