The frequent killing of Nigerians in South Africa over the years has attracted concerns among Nigerians globally, with its nationals seeking an end to the causal slaying of their compatriots.
Their concerns stem from the fact that relationship between Nigeria and South Africa, both African economic giants since independence era, has always been cordial and mutually beneficial, raising posers as to why slaying of Nigerians should be so casually carried out in the former apartheid enclave.
Nigerians have particularly noted that their nation was a foremost supporter of anti-apartheid movements, fighting the evil consistently until it was eliminated. Aside contributing immensely towards the emancipation of South Africa from the grip of apartheid, Nigeria’s civil servants also paid “Mandela Tax” to support the Africa National Congress in fighting apartheid.
The worry also hinged not just on why it is taking too long to end the recurrent killings of foreign nationals in South Africa, but also that without precaution to address killings and looting of properties in the country, there could be collateral damage there.
The recent killing of Mr Olusola Solarin, on Dec. 12, 2021 and Mr Kingsley Ezeh, on Jan. 6, 2022, both of them Nigerians resident in South Africa, has further thrown Nigerians into shock.
Their worries are based on the fact that in spite of the historic role Nigeria played in the liberation struggle of South Africans during the apartheid regime, many Nigerians have died there a result of recurring killings.
Although there is no recent data update on the total number of Nigerians living in South Africa currently, it was estimated by Statistic South Africa’s 2016 Community Survey that 30,314 people, or roughly two per cent of foreigners born in South Africa are from Nigeria.
More so, data reveal that 127 Nigerians have so far been killed in the last three years, while 13 out of these were reportedly killed by South African police. Solarin was reported to have met his death while returning to his base after supplying commercial goods to his customers outside Johannesburg. He was reportedly waylaid and killed when he refused to surrender his earnings to his assailants.
While Nigerians were mourning the passing of Solarin, who has since been buried at Makun community in Sagamu, near Abeokuta in Ogun, and concerned about the rising death toll of compatriots put at over 127 since 2019, Nigerian Citizens Association South Africa (NICASA) was thrown into shock over the killing of Ezeh, a native of Oduma, Aninri Local Government of Enugu State, allegedly by South African Police, on Jan. 6.
For most observers, this is particularly nauseating because the killings are occurring after South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, sent a special envoy, Jeff Radebe, in September, 2019 to apologise to President Muhammadu Buhari, over the xenophobic attacks on foreigners, on grounds that such killings do not represent South Africa’s value system.
Earlier, Ramaphosa had, in condemning the violence, stressed that measures were being taken to ensure that the violence did not continue, as South Africa suffered international backlash for the xenophobic attacks. The search for an end to these killings have become important amidst several warnings and negotiations by officials of both countries aimed at stopping the killings.
Analysts have observed that other nationals living in, and working in South Africa have suffered similar fate, but pointed out that Nigeria appears to be the worst hit and reiterated the need for an end to the killing of their compatriots in South Africa. In this vein, analysts have underscored the need for urgent steps aimed at ending such extrajudicial killings to safeguard the lives and property of Nigerians in South Africa.
Mr Benjamin Okoli, President General of NICASA, said that the passing of Ezeh was circumstantial, like others, in the hands of members of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD). Okoli explained that the passing of Ezeh was a “systemic xenophobic way” of killing Nigerian nationals by the members of the South African Police.
According to him, if Ezeh was a criminal, the Police should have arrested and prosecuted him, noting that his demise among others was a situation whereby Nigerians were arbitrarily killed without justification.
“Members of the JMPD invaded the Tyre shop owned by Ezeh in the late evening of Jan. 4, where he was allegedly manhandled in the course of extracting information from him,” Okoli alleged. “What led to the death of Ezeh on Jan. 4, remains a mystery which will be unravelled by Police investigation,” he added.
Also, Mr Danielson Akpan, former President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, stressed the need for the South African government to take proactive steps to end the killings in the country.
According to him, Nigerian students will not sit idly and watch the dastardly acts of violence continue. “We have seen the helplessness of the South African government in reigning on South African citizens and wish to condemn, in unambiguous terms, continued pampering of those involved.
“Every nation has its own internal crisis; no citizen of other nations should be sacrificed for the criminal activities of South Africans or any other,” Akpan said.
Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Chairman/ CEO of Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), has stressed the need for thorough investigation into the killings of Nigerians in the country and to bring the perpetrators to book.
According to her, the incessant and unjustifiable killing of Nigerians in South Africa will no longer be tolerated, as Nigerians are already running out of patience with the increasing scourge.
Dabiri-Erewa said: “We are reaching a tipping point where one more death of a Nigerian in South Africa will be unbearable to Nigerians. “Nigerians are all angry that anymore killing of any Nigerian in South Africa will not be tolerated.”
She, however, assured that high-level diplomatic efforts between the Nigerian government and the government of South Africa were ongoing to resolve the matter, saying, “We can still make diplomacy work.” In line with this, Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Minister in Charge of International Relations, has urged African leaders to take collective responsibility toward tackling xenophobic attacks.
Pandor said this while addressing diaspora civil society organisations in Pretoria, adding that she would also meet communities where violence flared to understand their concerns.
“The condition of our continent must change, and we must send a clear message to our leaders that we expect this change not just in South Africa, but in all the countries on the African continent,” Pandor said.
Like Pandor, analysts agree that the killing of Nigerians in South Africa could be stopped through diplomatic response and prosecution of those responsible for attacks on foreign nationals in that country.
They particularly noted that the recurring attacks and killings of Nigerians in South Africa were a violation of their fundamental right to life, pointing out that the situation was capable of jeopardizing the mutual relations between both nations. lMaureen Okon and Fortune Abang are of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)