Inciting remarks by some leaders in South Africa have been identified as part of the factors fueling xenophobic attacks in the country.
Director, Indigenous Language Media in African Research Institute, South Africa, Professor Abiodun Salawu stated this while speaking with Radio Nigeria.
Professor Salawu noted that the negative comments being made about foreigners by leaders in the country including President Cyril Ramaphosa had contributed to the recurring xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
“To worsen the matter, the leaders are not helping; their utterances are fueling this problem on hand. Even, the president himself is a culprit of this. During the campaign in the last election when he was addressing a rally he said that foreigners were setting up illegal businesses in their townships and rural areas. Sometimes later, the Deputy Minister of Police said eighty percent of jobs in Hebrow have been taken over by foreigners. He raised alarm that very soon they will take over the entire South Africa before you know it in future they will have president who is a foreign national. Those kinds of sentiments go a long way to put fire into the issue and the whole things will end in a conflagration. In 2015, it was the king of Zulu who started the whole thing by reckless statements”.
Professor Salawu noted that as both Nigerian president and his counterpart from South Africa planned to meet next month, they should find a common ground to address the problem stressing that as South African government has a lot to do to bring lasting peace, Nigerian government should also look into the allegation against her people that they were responsible for selling hard drugs which were affecting their youths.
“South Africans should be more accommodating. They should mind their utterances when this kind of thing happens. Let them try to educate their people about this issue. Some of them might also claim that Nigerians are selling drugs; they are into crimes, all that, foreigners are taking their job, all like that. The president should do something about it not only in South Africa, all over the world. In Malaysia, even in the neighbouring country, we have to do something about this”.
He explained that xenophobic attacks have been on and off in South Africa since 2008 stressing that there have been pockets in the recent past as it was only on a grand scale which involved death that the world used to know.
“There are instances where the world did not hear about it. It’s not every time that it happened on a grand scale like it’s happening now. Even a few weeks ago it happened when the local people alleged that foreign shop owners were stocking counterfeit goods to sell to their people. Based on that kind of allegation the people went on rampage they started looting shops of the foreigners. The goods they claimed to be counterfeit, they were taking them to their homes. This thing is a recurrent thing. It happens now and then, it’s only that when it happens on a grand scale when lives are lost and a lot of shops looted and burn, that is the only time, the world attention is called to it”.
He explained that South Africans including educated ones were xenophobic, perhaps because they believed a lot of foreigners were threats pointing out that those who used to spark off the attacks were street boys.
“A lot of people who are into this violent attacks are miscreants, criminals, never do well to do people. But the fact remains that a good number of South Africans are xenophobic in nature. Even, the very educated among them, the xenophobic attitude is there. Though, I’m not saying it’s peculiar to South Africa, if Nigeria were to be in the same shoe where a lot of foreigners from different parts of the continent and the world begin to flood our country, we might also have that kind of attitude and it cuts across” Professor Salawu said.