By Tony Eluemunor
Now that black on black blood-letting that went on in South Africa is over, and a remorseful South African Government and people have apologised, it is time to do a post-mortem. What really happened?
The September 2019 riots started Johannesburg on 1st – 5th September, leading to the deaths of at least seven people. It resumed in the famed Johannesburg, the Egoli, the city’s Zulu name (the City of Gold which the IpiTombi musical group sang about, with the heavenly voice of the late Margaret SIngana soaring high as the lead singer). The riots also affected Jeppestown.
Why? The death of a mini-bus taxi driver who was allegedly trying to stop drug dealers, incensed some people. It also coincided with the start of a demonstration by truck drivers over the taking over of their jobs by foreigners.
The riots resumed in Johannesburg three days later on 8th September 2019, when rioters marched on the Central Business District and looted shops whilst calling for foreigners to go.
The South African Institute of Race Relations stated that the riots were similar in nature and origin to the 2008 xenophobic riots that also occurred in Johannesburg.
Death and destruction toll: By 5th September President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that at least 10 people had died, including two foreign nationals. After this announcement in which he denounced the riots, they spread to the township of Alexandra instead of stopping.
In the end, some 50 businesses predominantly owned by Africans from the rest of the continent were reportedly destroyed. Two people were shot dead for trying to loot shops, including Isaac Sebakua South African, killed in Coronationville by a Somali shop owner who was arrested and another person in Crosby and a Pakistani shot a South African looter.
News24 reported that the two South Africans were shot dead in Brixton and Sophiatown during the riots and a Zimbabwean security guard was shot in Hillbrow. Two victims of unknown nationality were killed in Hillbrow and Jeppestown. Five more murders were reported—two in Coronationville, two in Hillbrow and one in Jeppestown. Two charred corpses were recovered from shops burnt by looters in Alexandra.
On 5th September, the Police arrested 74 persons in Katlehong as looting and rioting continued, taking the number of arrests to 497. They also stated that 11 persons had died during the riots, though only 7 deaths are known to have been caused directly due to it. Isaac Sithole, a Zimbabwean, was beaten up and burnt alive by South African rioters in Katlehong. His sister-in-law alleged that a baby had also died in an arson attack.
Following the resumption of rioting on the 8th September, noted Zulu leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, gave a speech calling for calm and a secession of violence. One person died and five were injured during a protest by South Africans against immigrants in Johannesburg whilst 16 people were arrested. Another person was shot in Malvern during the violence.
This brought the number of deaths to about 12. By the end of the riots a reported total of over 680 people had been arrested.
Interestingly and to God be the Glory, no single Nigerian was killed during the South African riots, though Nigerian-owned shops and businesses are believed to have been targeted by the mobs. Of the 12 people who lost their lives, 10 are reported to have been South African nationals.
Now, it should be worth the while to deviate a bit; if we rose as one to condemn the South African riots, why have we not done the same against the rampaging killer-herdsmen who have turned the entire Nigeria into a killing field? Why have we not treated that matter as a serious one of law and order? Why have we not treated the bringing of animals into other peoples’ farms as pure and unbridled trespassing?
Herdsmen versus farmers/their communities clashes have claimed 3,641 lives from 2015 to late 2018. That is within a space of three years. According to the Global Terrorism Index, Fulani militants were the fourth deadliest terrorist group in 2014, using machine guns and attacks on villages to assault and intimidate farmers. After killing around 80 people in total from 2010 to 2013, they killed 1,229 in 2014. Since then deaths have occurred in Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba, Zamfara Enugu States, etc.
Miyetti Allah stated that even the Fulani herdsmen too have been victims of attacks and that the June 2018 massacre was a response to killing of over 70 herders and theft of over 500 cows since April 2018. Mr TunjiAjibade in a column in The Punch has accused the media of promoting ethnic hatred, by often attributing killings to Fulani herdsmen even when the police themselves haven’t confirmed so or any suspect has been arrested. In contrast, ethnicities of attackers targeting Muslim or Fulani communities are often unidentified by the media, even when such attackers were arrested.
For instance, on 11th February 2019, an attack on an Adara settlement named UngwarBardi by suspected Fulani gunmen killed 11 persons. Reprisal attack by Adara targeted settlements of the Fulani killing at least 141 people with 65 missing. So, the killings have only fuelled more killings. And the killings will continue unless Nigeria acts like South Africa and come hard against the killers!!!
Now the other matters arising: who takes the credit for repatriating Nigerians from South Africa? On 4th September 2019, a newspaper reported that “Air Peace proprietor, Chief Allen Onyema, had provided an aircraft to evacuate Nigerians from South Africa.” The MFA spokesman, Ferdinand Nwonye said in a statement Onyema, had volunteered to send an aircraft from September 6, 2019, to evacuate Nigerians who wish to return to Nigeria free of charge.”
Then, on the 9th, Bashir Ahmed, President Muhammadu Buhari’s media hand said the President had released “instruction for the immediate voluntary evacuation of all Nigerians who are willing to return home.” Yet, those who rejoiced that perhaps Buhari had sent a ship steaming to South Africa or at least some military planes to help in the evacuation efforts of Air Peace, were truly deceived. Had the number of would-be returnees over-whelmed Air Peace, Nigeria was not about to lift a finger to help it, or so it seemed for Nigeria added not an aeroplane landing-gear to Air Peace’s efforts.
This is a fact: Buhari sent a Special Envoy, Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Abubakar, to South Africa on 3rd September and according to a newspaper report of 8th September, he had just returned to the country and was about to brief Buhari. But on the 4th Air Peace had announced its patriotic service to Nigeria.