Many Nigerians were distressed again over the recent reports of renewed South African violent attacks on Nigerians and Nigerian-owned businesses in which four Nigerians were severely injured in the Mpumalanga Province. The President of the Nigerian Union in South Africa, Mr. Adetola Olubajo, confirmed the incidents and expressed some relief that no deaths were reported. Earlier, he said, taxi drivers and other South Africans went about attacking foreign-owned businesses, particularly, Nigerians. The attacks moved to the interior of Witbank around Extension 10 where four Nigerians were injured.

Olubanjo said: “There is fresh attack in Mpumalanga, one of the provinces, an hour drive from Pretoria,” the seat of the South African government. This is a separate incident from the murder of a Nigerian, Chikamso Ufordi, in Nigel near Johannesburg on October 27, 2019. He was trailed by gunmen and shot in the company of two other Nigerians who were also wounded in the shooting. Ufordi is said to hail from Awgu Local Government Area in Enugu State. An official of the Nigerian Union, Odefa Ikele, said Ufordi was shot at close range and had died immediately before help arrived.

The anxiety of Nigerians over these incidents, which, mercifully, did not escalate or widen as in earlier incidents, was based on the fact that the Nigeria-South Africa Commission, the bi-national summit of President Muhammadu Buhari and Cyril Ramaphosa was barely four weeks old. Indeed, the ink would hardly have dried on the inspiring and hopeful documents initialed by both men. To have incidents of violence so soon after these agreements is a bad omen and a sign of failure of the three-day summit which involved several Nigerian state governors, ministers, some top Nigerian diplomats and other officials.

Unfortunately, there were no reports of overt, direct actions of South African government officials to nip the violence in the bud or the invocation of the so-called ‘early warning system’ which is expected to pre-empt such brush fires by alerting the relevant security and law enforcement authorities to quench the fires in their early stages. Yet, if agreements reached between the two countries are not honoured, the two presidents would have laboured in vain and the efforts of their top officials drawing up 34 memoranda of understanding on various issues important to each country’s development would have come to naught. Not only must treaties be honoured, the rule of law and due process must also be seen to be followed.
The most painful grief of Nigerians in South Africa is often the lip service paid to the rule of law by the South African Police, who sometimes turn a blind eye to grave acts of violence against Nigerians. The issue of compensation for Nigerians, who lost their property and means of livelihood, seems not to be receiving the deserved attention, likewise the resettlement of those displaced by the wanton violence of mobs. Last week, the South African Police evicted displaced migrants, who were taking refuge at the United Nations Office with no word about an alternative camp for their resettlement.

Given the volume of interaction expected between the two biggest economies in Africa, Nigeria and South Africa, Nigerians should be reconciled to the high level of patience and tolerance which must prevail on both sides to maintain good relations. And the key to such good relations is being vigilant and maintaining ‘good fences’ for, as the saying goes, good fences make good neighbours. In practical terms, this means raising issues promptly when they occur, resistance to sweeping uncomfortable facts under the carpet, and dealing with issues promptly with minimal bureaucratic red tape, with all communications conducted in a tempered, polite but firm manner. That also means retooling the Nigerian High Commission and the Consulate, arming them with facilities and resources to attend to the regular needs of Nigerians, such as hot lines between the South African security system and the Nigerian High Commission and the Consulate to promptly look into tense situations.

Yet, we know that nothing we do abroad is a substitute for a strong, proactive, honest, healthy Nigeria that cares for its citizens at home and is seen trying to create an atmosphere of hope, as different from the prevailing despair, which is the primary reason for risky emigration. Nigeria needs excellent relations with South Africa, but both nations must work hard to create and nurse that relationship.

We hope that when the Joint Ministerial Advisory Council on industry, trade and investments meets in Abuja in April 2020, a better modus vivendi would have been established to enable Nigeria and South Africa maintain the excellent relations necessary for the development of the two countries and Africa in general.

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Nigerians in South Africa
Nigerians in South Africa 3293 posts

We are about democracy, human rights, public opinion, political behavior, civil rights and policy aimed at improving the human condition, with a focus on African countries.

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