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My brother,the South African

When two brothers fight, strangers reap the harvest- Igbo Proverb

It is time to take a step back and reflect. Things are getting out of hand, in fact, it has been getting out of hand for far too long. Years too long. Far too many people have died, too much bad blood and a fractured relationship that goes back decades. Now our Ambassador to South Africa has been recalled. Nigerian musicians are boycotting South Africa and African countries are withdrawing from events in South Africa.  Our president and his fellow African Heads of State are registering their displeasure.  The markets are beginning to feel the impact of the conflict. Money, makes the big corporations sit up and take notice.  Strange that the western world refuses to make mention of the conflict, is it not news worthy?  It is hardly making the western news. That speaks volumes. Presumably, African lives do not mean much as long as it does not make a dent in the profit margin. Incredible how Africans are foreigners in Africa like they are in the rest of the world, and Europeans are experts in Africa and not foreigners?  Do you get that picture?

South African
Some South African women married to Nigerians staged a peaceful protest in Johannesburg.

Would diplomacy work to stem the hatred or could South Africa feel the fall out of her close neighbours?  It would be unfortunate,if this is not resolved.  We cannot afford to foster self hatred.  It plays into the hand of the oppressors. It is no skin off their nose. They wrote the script on divide and conquer.

Understandably,  there have been talks of bad Africans bringing drugs into South Africa. It is too simplistic.  And besides,there are Nigerian doctors and nurses in South African hospitals .

According to Naledi Pandor, South African Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that Nigeria should keep its citizens who are into drug peddling, human trafficking and other vices from coming into her country; ‘She said that South Africa needed the help of the Federal Government of Nigeria to curb crimes in their country, as she said that South Africans believe that Nigerians were into drug peddling, human trafficking and other vices that hurt their nation. I’m sure South Africans were into drugs before Nigerians came. This is not to say, that the problem of Nigerian drug dealers doesn’t exist. It does. The South African authorities are more than capable of dealing with criminals regardless of their nationalities.

The Killing Spree: Timeline of Nigerians killed in South Africa(Opens in a new browser tab)

We are one. We are Africans. Like most Sub Saharan African countries, Nigeria and  South Africa have ties that go deeper than deep.

History shows that Nigeria stood by Black South Africans  in the dark days of apartheid in cash and in support, in protest and in sanctions as well as providing haven for activists and young South Africans.

Here are some of the historical facts:

  • Sir Balewa lobbied for the effective expulsion of South Africa from the Commonwealth in 1961.Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was the first leader to provide a direct financial aid to the ANC from the early 1960s.
  • At the height of the liberation movement in the 1970s, Nigeria alone provided $5-million annual subvention to the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) annually. That amount would be in the billions if converted at today`s rate.
  • In 1976, Nigeria set up the Southern Africa Relief Fund (SAFR) destined to bring relief to the victims of the apartheid regime in South Africa, provide educational opportunities for them and promote the general welfare.
  • The successive administrations in Nigeria did not abandon the cornerstone of their country`s foreign policy either. The military administration of General Obasanjo contributed $3.7 million to the fund.
  • General Obasanjo made a personal donation of $3,000 while each member of his cabinet also made personal contributions of $1,500 each.
  • All Nigeria`s civil servants and public officers made a 2% donation from their monthly salary to the SAFR. Students skipped their lunch to make donations, and just in 6 months, in June 1977, the popular contribution to the fund reached $10.5 million.
  • The donations to the SAFR were widely known in Nigeria as the “Mandela tax“
  • The first group of 86 South African students arrived in Nigeria in 1976. Hundreds of South African students have benefited from the fund`s activity having come to study in Nigeria for free.
  • Nigeria played hosts to many renowned South Africans like Thabo Mbeki (former South African president from 1999 to 2008). He had spent 7 years in Nigeria, from 1977 to 1984.
  • For South Africans, who could not travel abroad because the apartheid regime had withdrawn their passports, Nigeria`s government issued more than 300 passports.
  • Along with fellow African countries, Nigeria lobbied for the creation of the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid and chaired it for 30 years, longer than any other country.
  • As for trade, Nigeria had refused to sell oil to South Africa for decades in protest against the white minority rule. As a result, Nigeria had lost approximately $41 billion during that period.
  • Nigeria was the only nation worldwide to set up the National Committee Against Apartheid (NACAP) as early as in 1960. The committee`s mission was to disseminate the evils of the apartheid regime to all Nigerians from primary schools to universities, in public media and in markets, through posters and billboard messages.
  • Xenophobia: NIPR condemns attacks on Nigerians in South Africa(Opens in a new browser tab)
  • The NACAP was also responsible for the coordination of Nigeria`s government and civil society joint anti-apartheid actions and advising of policy makers on anti-apartheid decisions. For over three decades the NACAP had successfully built alliances with labour movement, student groups, progressive elements and other international grassroots organizations within Nigeria for effective anti-apartheid activities.

The role that Nigeria played in breaking down apartheid  can not be underplayed, Nigeria was instrumental and we, as young Nigerians were fully aware and our governments encouraged us to keep up the fight to dismantle the heinous apartheid regime. We were beyond joy also when, Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa and Apartheid was finally dismantled.

So these may be lost on some South Africans who feel that Nigerians along side others so called ‘African’ foreigners should leave South Africa . They believe that these foreigners are taking their jobs and using their resources. Sounds familiar? Yes, of course, if it were an European country and the foreigners were black Africans.  You do not expect it from fellow black Africans? No, well, No.  So what is going on?

South Africa has a problem  and the problem is not fellow black Africans, not by a long stretch of the imagination. It is with the minority white south Africans who hold over 80%of the wealth and despite, the death of apartheid (on paper), the shift in wealth and power remains with the white south Africans and the black south Africans have not experienced the promise of an equal south Africa.

Understandably, the majority of black Africans are tired and frustrated that their  lives have not changed in spite of the promise.

So while, the disgruntled are focussing on a small number of Africans ekeing out a living, the status quo does not change at all, the rich 2% continue to live a life of privilege  and distraction benefits them .  While the poor blames other africans, the  owners of the South African multinationals, think supermarkets, cell phones operators, and companies have are steadily making inroads into other African countries, they are African after all! They are making a killing and they make no changes to the lives of black south Africans. They are hardly investing in south Africa but they continue to benefit from the country so nothing’s changed.

Of course. Other Africans in south Africa have gone into south Africa to make a life, to the resentment of black africans. How dear Jonny come lately, come in here and swans around like he owns the place?   The bad blood runs through the neighbourhood where poverty no longer understands logic but gratification.  They can not get the rich, then get the poor foreigner, who happens to be an African.  It is a convenience. So why the repudiation and violence? This is a country that is historically steeped in violence. The oppressed have learnt the ways of the oppressors.  It is shocking, absolutely shocking.

Having said this, we should also remember, that Nigerians are hard workers and whatever they find themselves, they will make it work.  They did exactly that, and their success did not go  unnoticed. Nigerians work hard and play hard. This might have rubbed the native south africans the wrong way. It still did not warrant violence and death. Equally they have assaulted Zimbabweans, Somalis, Zambians and other southern Africans. Safe to say not all South Africans want black Africans out. Fire brand, Julius Malema has suggested that people’s anger should rather be directed at white people while blaming them for the chaos. He took to Twitter page on  the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader accused the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party of protecting white people who he claims own their wealth and don’t want to share with them. He said;“Our anger is directed at wrong people. Like all of us, our African brothers & sisters are selling their cheap labour for survival,”

African Jour

 

The owners of our wealth is white monopoly capital; they are refusing to share it with us & the ruling party #ANC protects them. One Africa is possible’

In another tweet, Malema also appeared to blame white people for the ongoing crisis. :“I think these whites must for a second keep quiet because we are dealing with a mess created by them. They are the ones who created this situation by telling us that we are poor & unemployed because ”foreigners” took our jobs. We are fighting for cramps [sic].”

Trevor Noah, South African comedian and presenter echoed the same.

There are reprisals in Nigeria aimed at Shoprite stores, which are seen as a symbol of everything that’s wrong with South Africa’s engagement with the continent. And African governments — usually so slow to condemn the electoral fraud or human rights abuses of their counterparts — have not been shy to criticise South Africa, including a stinging rebuke from the new chair of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat.

 

So for those who are quick to burn and destroy south African businesses  in Nigeria. Remember, that those who gets hurts most are the Nigerian workers not the owners of these businesses. Besides, those who are quick to pillage and loot the supermarket  have got ulterior motives . There are not helping the victims.

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

 

Before we start playing the victim card, remember what  Nigerians did to the Ghanaians( we still have Ghana must go bags). That is for another day.

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