Zuma, Osinbajo must intervene now!
By Nsikan Ikpe
Concern is mounting over the state of relations between the two largest economies on the African continent with thousands of South African protesters expected to converge in Pretoria on Friday in a major rally targeted at Nigerians and other African immigrants.
The Police in South Africa confirmed that the anti-immigration march is being organised by a group calling itself the Concerned Mamelodi Residents.
According to the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) spokesperson, Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, the City of Tshwane had approved the march.
He warned that it was illegal to carry dangerous weapons during the march and urged participants to ensure it was peaceful.
“Any form of hate speech, intolerance or incitement to violence should be rejected by all sectors of society.”
On its part, the Inkatha Freedom Party, IFP called on authorities to ensure there was no violence or looting during the event.
“All too often such marches tend to become violent and destructive while the actual focus on and concerns of citizens are forgotten,” IFP national chairperson Blessed Gwala said in a statement.
Tshwane metro police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said SAPS was handling security.
However, a South African civic organisation, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) condemned the planned march and said government needy to urgently address the systemic inefficiencies that led to xenophobic violence.
“Community leaders and government officials should avoid using inflammatory xenophobic language which further fuels xenophobic attitudes,” the IJR said.
Gwala said while police had been conducting searches and arresting illegal immigrants, these actions had been few and far between. More effort and co-ordination from authorities was needed.
And in an address in parliament, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba warned that businesses that employ illegals on Thursday.
“Companies, businesses: Be warned. We are coming for you. We will charge them, there’s no doubt. The manger will be charged. Often times, we focus on the undocumented employee and not the company,” he said.
At least 20 shops possibly belonging to immigrants were looted in South Africa’s capital overnight, police said Thursday, but they could not confirm the motive.
Back in Nigeria, protesters vandalised the head office of South African mobile phone giant MTN in Abuja on Thursday in apparent retaliation for anti-Nigerian violence in South Africa.
The attack came after a Nigerian youth body threatened to shut down South African businesses after shops believed to be owned by immigrants in the capital Pretoria were looted.
Nigeria and South Africa, the continent’s two largest economies and pre-eminent diplomatic and military powers, have a volatile relationship.
Protesters stormed the regional head office of MTN – the biggest South African company active in Nigeria – and stole customers’ phones, vandalised equipment and attacked customers, a spokesman for MTN said.
“They forcefully entered the MTN office. Security men were around but unable to curtail the protesters, who forced the gates open and entered the office,” a witness said.
“Some protesters were touts. Some were students. In the midst were some criminals that took away some customers’ phones and other things,” he added, asking not to be named.
A South African government source described the attack as serious. “This wasn’t just some people on the street throwing stones. They broke into the building and stole things and broke things,” the source said. The incident coincided with a visit by MTN chairman Phuthuma Nhleko to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.
At least 20 shops believed to belong to immigrants were looted in South Africa’s capital. Police refused to say if the attackers were specifically targeting foreigners.
Responding to those attacks, Nigeria’s foreign ministry summoned South Africa’s envoy to raise itsconcerns over “xenophobic attacks” on Nigerians, other Africans and Pakistanis. In his response, the High Commissioner stated that the Police were doing everything possible to contain the situation.
South Africa’s home affairs minister on Thursday spoke out against renewed anti-foreigner violence.
Anti-immigrant violence has flared sporadically in South Africa against a background of near-record unemployment, with foreigners being accused of taking jobs from locals and getting involved in crime.
“Currently, in 2017, there are renewed incidents of violence against foreign national in Rosettenville and Pretoria West,” Gigaba told a media briefing.
“Unfortunately, xenophobic violence is not new in South Africa,” he said, recounting similar incidents in the past.
The attacks against immigrants have been carried out over time by bands of youths, citing competition for jobs and allegations of criminal activity, such as prostitution and drug dealing in the poor township west of Pretoria and elsewhere.
And analysts are worried that if President Zuma and Acting President Osinbajo do not do something urgent now, tempers may rise even higher on both sides.
Deputy President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa