“Africa for the Africans!” This is the old catchy phrase breaking down “colonial frontiers” and uniting Africans in an unbroken chord of brotherhood. However, nowadays, Africans living in other countries which are not their countries of origin are grimly accustomed to invectives and expletives as they are constantly targets of obnoxious citizens.
Today, the phrase has seemingly being made nonsense of. Rather, the malady has mutated from mere verbal repugnance to pockets of violence and killings, viewed from “non-African lenses” as social cannibalism.
Across Africa, this ugly trend has pervaded. In Ghana, in 1969/70 the government of K.A. Busia, initiated the infamous Aliens Compliance Order which oversaw then forced expulsion of “aliens” mostly Nigerians and Burkinabes. The early 1980s saw Nigeria dish out reprisals to a horde of Ghanaians.Only recently, in Côte d’Ivoire, during the political tussle between Laurent Gbagbo and AlasanWatara, the Malians suffered the fate being meted out to “aliens.” The case is the same in Libya.
Today, it is the same story in the Republic of South Africa.The Rainbow Nation is home to people of many and diverse nationalities, and is a cosmopolitan society of many languages and cultures in a globalising world. The plague of the Apartheid era which ended in 1994 after a scorching 81 years, made the country claustrophobic, and detached from outside influence. Foreigners in South Africa were nearly non-existent.
The foreigners (including Nigerians) have a lower rate of unemployment because they venture into entrepreneurship and also accept jobs that South Africans are reluctant to take.
This has led to a constant increase of attacks in South AfricaInterestingly, the reality is that all over Africa recognizable BIG businesses, hotel and tourist industries are the exclusive domain of American, European and Asian capitalists who reap all the profits and repatriate those, leaving Africa worse off. These mega bourgeoisies are permanently left untouched.
The sequence ofNigerian victims of fatalitiesand forceful deportations thus begs the question: is this Xenophobia or financial competition?
Is this a problem of historical enlightenment or political economy? At the kernel of xenophobia is the problem of “the haves and have-nots” which is central to the war, violence and hatred. Clearly, xenophobia cannot be divorced from the economic life of the masses.
Only recently, Nigerians were massively victims of a new wave of attacks, their businesses and means of livelihood being destroyed or shut down. Unprecedentedly, there are reports in Abuja of reprisal vandalism on the properties of MTN, A South African tele-communications Company headquartered in Johannesburg. Though it is crystal clear that neither the attacks on Nigerians in South Africa nor the attack on South Africa associated companies including MTN Nigeria can lead to a peaceful end.
Leading voices across both fault lines have vehemently condemned the scourge.
Frank Magwegwe, a South African Author wrote in his blog; “We must be quite clear that we expect foreigners to be employed legally, paid collective bargaining or statutory wages, pay their taxes and respect our laws including those governing state benefits.”
Magwegwepoints at the South African government as not doing enough. “Every political party is owned and controlled by the rich who contribute money which is used to canvass support from the poor masses. Such party in power is in reality the executive committee of the rich people behind it. All policies are aimed at the welfare of the rich albeit camouflaged in populism. In the process basic necessities for the masses are underfunded but can be afforded by the rich.
This inevitably results in discontent, alienation and disobedience among the masses. All of these fans the embers of social restiveness among the masses.”
Similarly, Bishop Abel Gabuza‚ chairperson of The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) Justice and Peace Commission has called for calm and restraint. To him, “No grievance justifies violence against foreign nationals.”
South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Lulu Aaron-Mnguni, while speaking at the 2016 edition of Abuja Writers Forum’s Guest Writer Session in Abuja, said Nigeria was of great assistance to Mandela, and the struggle for freedom for the people of South African.
The envoy, who was the special guest of honour at the event with the theme: “Celebrating Mandela,’’ said “ Mandela came to Nigeria in 1963 to beg for money to help in the struggle and he was given the needed support. “Nigeria helped South Africa a lot in the struggle for freedom; thank you, Nigerians for the roles played in our struggle.
Commenting on the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama,last week,told a news conference in Abuja that “The government of South Africa have assured us that they are taking a number of measures to ensure that its citizen understand the role Nigeria played during their apartheid struggles.”
However, a greater measure to curb this mayhem depends on the weight and impact of the Corporate Social Responsibility strategies ofSouth African Multinationals with big Businesses in Nigeria viz: Standard Bank, Stanbic-IBTC, DSTV, Multi-Choice, MTN, South African Airways, SHOPRITE, SAASOL Oil etc. These Multinationals fatten their coffers of profit from Nigeria’s teeming population market.For example, MTNN is the telecom’s most lucrative base!
To maintain peace in South Africa and preserve properties abroad, these conglomerates must adopt high tempo orientation activities which could span over eighteen months. This can be done by communicating anti-xenophobic clichés and advertorials across media platforms like newspapers, radio mentions, social media and text messagestothe South African populace and institutions.
The conglomerates must employ concerted efforts to influence and prevail on the South African Authorities to reverse de-registered Work and Residence Permits as well as Bank Accounts. This will confer legitimacy on their stay and count them worthy of protection from municipal laws and securities and thus make life easy for Nigerians and other immigrants.