Worried about the recent wave of hostilities against foreigners in the Republic of South Africa, Nigerians living in that country have urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to help protect them and their properties.
The Nigerian community, under the aegis of Nigeria Union South Africa (NUSA), made the appeal on Saturday in a statement e-mailed from Pretoria, South Africa.
“I call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to help our community during this trying time so that we may not lose our brothers again to anti-foreigners groups,’’ the NUSA President, Mr Collins Mgbo said.
Mgbo said their worries were made evident when a group of more than 2,000 people recently demonstrated against migrant workers as part of “Operation Dudula’’.
Operation Dudula, a Zulu word for “drive back’’, has gained popularity as a sign of growing anti-immigrant sentiment in South Africa, which has been plagued by record unemployment figures and poverty worsened by COVID-19.
“Operation Dudula group turned up in a mob of several hundred at a migrant centre in South Africa’s Soweto township, with the unemployed, wielding weapons and angry with foreigners they accuse of taking their jobs, chanting `Foreigners, go home’,’’ Mgbo said.
He explained that NUSA was worried about the safety of Nigerians in South Africa when the groups began with their illegal acts of abuse and destruction of properties and business owned by foreigners, and Nigerians in particular.
“We are concerned because in the past, xenophobic protests have resulted into violence and looting of foreign-owned shops. In 2008, the attacks against foreigners left at least 62 people dead, whereas in 2015, seven innocent African brothers were killed.
“Armed mobs descended on foreign-owned businesses in Johannesburg in 2019. Another mob attack left at least 12 people dead.
“In recent weeks, scores of protesters have been staging demonstrations against undocumented migrants in what they have dubbed Operation Dudula, and this time, we do not know how many foreign nationals would sacrifice their lives for it,’’ he said.
Mgbo said that politicians like Julius Malema, the Commander-In-Chief of Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) and Mmusi Maimane, had condemned the act of this group as illegal.
“President Cyril Ramaphosa voiced out his concern stating that his government was closely watching ongoing anti-migrant protests to prevent them from resulting into xenophobic attacks, amid growing public anger at foreigners.
“Ramaphosa said his government was aware of pockets of groupings that are trying to foment a type of negative attitudes and feelings toward foreigners.
“The president said the law enforcement agencies are keeping a watchful eye on the way that people are responding to the presence of people from other countries in our own country,’’ Mgbo quoted Ramaphosa as telling newsmen in Cape Town after addressing lawmakers recently.
“The security agencies are watching and will make sure these things will not result into violence against people from various other countries.’’