Last week, another round of xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa erupted, with many shops and other property belonging to foreigners doing business in that country looted and set ablaze, while many of the shop owners were beaten in a mob action. That action, more than any other thing, is threatening African unity.
In the wake of that development, many African countries condemned the attacks, with some calling on their citizens to stay away from the streets.
The Nigerian Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari, not only condemned the attacks, but summoned the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria to outline definitive measures aimed at addressing the development. The Nigerian Government also sent an envoy to the Southern African Nation, to protest against the treatment of Nigerians in that country.
For his part, the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, condemned the attacks, pointing out that there was no justification for them and asking his country’s youths to direct their grievances to the appropriate quarters.
The latest attacks followed similar ones in the past in which some people were killed. Although no concrete reason has been given as the cause of these constant attacks, it has been gathered that many South Africans see these foreign nationals as taking up jobs meant for them in their own country.
But the question will be asked whether the shop owners whose shops are always looted and destroyed are in the civil service of that country or even employees of companies. The fact that they are shop and business owners indicates that they are people running their own businesses. Is there any justification therefore, for any South African to begrudge these hard working foreign nationals of their success? Obviously there is none. The action of these South Africans therefore, smacks of laziness and envy and has no place in any sane society.
We feel that the South African Government has not done enough to stop this phenomenon, hence its regular occurrence. It is clear that more stringent actions should be taken by the host government in order to put a serious scare on those behind these shameful attacks.
Rather than direct their fury against foreigners doing honest business in their country, the South Africans should ask questions of their government and demand more job opportunities.
Taking it out on foreigners is not the solution and can only lead to reprisal attacks on South Africans in other countries. Already, such a reprisal attack was averted in Nigeria recently when some angry Nigerian youths threatened to attack South African investments in Nigeria. This is even as unconfirmed reports, as at press time, had it that some Nigerian youths had attacked the Lagos headquarters of MTN last Tuesday. MTN is a South African Telecoms company.
Should this spread across other African countries, the consequences will be better imagined than seen.
We therefore call on the African Union to wade into this matter once and for all, working in concert with the South African Government, to find a lasting solution to this show of shame before it causes lasting damage to African unity.