The ongoing xenophobic attacks in South Africa may have triggered another round of face-off between Nigeria and South Africa.
This is coming few months after the two countries disagreed over a failed arms deal which led to the seizure of Nigeria’s money.
The South African government had, on September 5, 2014, seized $9.3m cash belonging to Nigeria and a month later seized another $5.7m, claiming that both funds were to be used for illegal purchase of arms.
It was smuggled into the country through Lanseria Airport in Johannesburg in three suitcases by a delegation said to represent the Presidency.
That episode saw the Nigerian Government threatening Nigerian-based South African entities.
A Nigerian firm Societe D’ Equipment Internationaux, and a South African company, Cerberus, had been contracted to supply some military hardware to the Nigeria firm on behalf of the federal government, but the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa froze the money which was wired to the South African firm for the arms deal.
In response, Nigeria had targeted about 14 South African companies operating in Nigeria.
They include MTN, Power Giant, Eskom Nigeria, South African Airways,South African Breweries (SAB miller), Stanbic Merchant Bank of Nigeria, Multichoice, Umgeni Water, Refresh products, PEP Retail Stores.
Others are Shoprite, LTA Construction, Protea Hotels, Critical Rescue International, South African-Nigeria Communications and Global Outdoor Semces, Oracle.
Although the companies were not affected by the row, the federal government is still considering some sanctions since all efforts to retrieve the money have yet to yield any fruit.
Insiders, however, say the President Jonathan administration still angry over the action of its former ally, may have dropped the matter since it will soon leave office.
Already, South Africa which is in no hurry to release the seized money, has given indication that it will do so when President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari takes office.
The Mail & Guardian had reported that diplomatic sources have it that South Africa has begun talks to work out a process.
“The positive thing about (Buhari) is that one of the people who supported him is Atiku Abubakar. That makes him our man and he will work well with [President ] Zuma,” the newspaper quoted government source said.
“Atiku is close to Zuma. He was Nigeria’s deputy president during the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, at the time when Zuma was Thabo Mbeki’s deputy.
“Also, this man (Buhari) is a (retired) military general. It is true that the military needs some beefing up to fight Boko Haram and we should help,” the source added.
FG recall envoys to South Africa
In confirmation that the xenophobic attacks have renewed hostility, the federal government on Saturday recalled its high commissioner to South Africa, Martin Cobham, and his deputy, Uche Okeke, to protest the continued attacks by South Africans on Nigerians and other foreigners.
In a statement by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali, said the envoys have been summoned for consultation.
The statement reads, “The Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali, has summoned for consultation, Nigeria’s senior diplomats on tour of duty in South Africa.
“These are the Acting High Commissioner in Pretoria, Ambassador Martin Cobham, and the Deputy High Commissioner in Johannesburg, Ambassador Uche Ajulu-Okeke.
“The invitation is in connection with the ongoing xenophobia in South Africa targeting foreigners, mainly African migrants.
“It will be recalled that the current spate of attacks began about three weeks ago, and have so far claimed some seven lives, destruction of property and created fear and uncertainty in the minds of African migrants in the former apartheid enclave.
“The South African President, Mr. Jacob Zuma, has condemned the attacks in a statement presented to the South African National Assembly. Ditto for the Zulu Monarch, Goodwill Zwelithini, whose alleged inciting comment provoked the attacks. Well meaning South Africans have also organised peace marches against xenophobia.”.
Meanwhile, The Nigerian Union in South Africa said on Saturday that Nigerians lost more than 4.6 million Rand (N84 million) to xenophobic attacks.
The President of Nigerian Union in South Africa, Ikechukwu Anyene, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on phone from Pretoria, South Africa, that the losses were initially put at 1.2 million Rand (N21 million).
“The Nigerian Union in South Africa has completed documentation of the losses suffered by Nigerians to xenophobic attacks.
“Nigerians lost more than 4.6 million Rand or N84 million during the attacks.
“A mechanic workshop owned by a Nigerian in Jeppes, near Johannesburg, for example was completely burnt with 11 cars inside it.
“The loss is put at more than one million Rand or N20 million,” he said.
Mr. Anyene said the union had compiled the losses and given the list to Nigeria’s Consul-General to South Africa.
He said Nigerian victims of the attacks needed urgent assistance to re-settle because many had lost their means of livelihood.
“The Consul-General has travelled to Nigeria and we appeal to the Federal Government to do something urgent to assist Nigerians affected by the attacks.
“We have made representations to the Federal government.
“We are also hoping that working with the South African government, there will be a way to compensate the affected Nigerians so as to enable them go back to their normal lives.
“The tension is less now. The South African government has come out in full force to check the attacks,” he said.
Mr. Anyene said the losses suffered by Nigerians were in the form of vandalised mechanic workshops, burnt mechanic workshops, looted shops as well as stolen and burnt cars.
“More than 50 Nigerians were displaced during the attacks. The union has assisted them to return home.
“The union is also planning to assist a family to move to a new accommodation because the present home is not safe,’’ he said.
He said the union carried out a proper documentation of the attacks, with pictures and other relevant documents stored to capture the incidents.
Senate seeks prosecution of Zulu King at ICC
In response to the attacks, the Nigerian Senate in a resolution directed its committee on Foreign Affairs to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to brief it on the situation and measures being taken by the federal government to safeguard the lives and property of Nigerians in South Africa .
At a plenary session during the week, Senate President, David Mark warned South Africans, not to stretch Nigeria beyond her limits through all manner of incessant attacks against her citizens in South Africa.
He said: “What is happening in South Africa is totally unacceptable, it is unexpected and my humble suggestion will be that South Africa should not stretch us beyond our elastic limit on this matter.
“There is a limit beyond which the nation will not accept what is happening in South Africa and if we go beyond that limit then Nigeria will be forced to act otherwise.”
Continuing, Mark told his colleagues: “All of you have very clearly enumerated the assistance we gave to South Africa to liberate them when they had their crises; students contributed, we accommodated so many of them, we gave them scholarships.
“For them to repay us this way, I think it is totally unacceptable and uncalled for; we need to stand up also for all other African in South Africa.”
Agencies protest ‘exploitation’ charges by South African companies
At the weekend, the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) expressed its position against “extortion and exploitation” of Nigerians by South African-owned companies.
This is coming on the heels of recently introduced bouquet rates by Multi Choice Nigeria Limited, owners of DSTV, despite a court injunction ordering DSTV to maintain the status quo ante pending the determination of the case by the Federal High Court.
MultiChoice had argued that the contract agreement between the company and its subscribers explicitly stated that it reserved the right to change prices and channels.
MultiChoice is a South African company.
Reacting, the deputy director, Public Relations of CPC, Abiodun Obimuyiwa, insists that since Nigeria operated a free market economy, nobody can fix prices for service providers.
I think the xenophobic attacks in South Africa are outrageous, sad and insult to African integrity and unity dispensation. The AU must hold an emergency Summit on this xenophobic crisis and take these punitive measures as soon as practicable:
1. Banned/suspend South Africa for 2years from AU Summit meetings.
2. Impose travel ban to South Africa for 2years by AU member nations.
3. Suspend South Africa for 4 years in All Africa Sporting events etc.
4. South Africa compensate financially all victims for loss of business/property.
5. Impose stiff trade sanctions or boycott South African goods and services-2yrs.
6. Issue arrest and prosecution of Zulu King at African Court of Justice.
These steps will send a strong message to any member state that uses impunity as xenophobic excuse to undermine and ridicule African unity plus gross human rights violations.
The AU and member states must be united in action to protect all Africans anywhere on the continent to live in peace and safe at all times.
Long live Africa’s freedom and justice for all Africans!!