Xenophobia: There was another round of tension in South Africa yesterday as groups of men carrying clubs marched down the streets of Johannesburg singing “foreigners must go back to where they came from.”
A move by a veteran politician Mangosuthu Buthelez to quell the tensions failed as his speech was disrupted by the crowd.
Mr Buthelezi, a Zulu leader during apartheid and former leader of South Africa’s opposition Inkatha Freedom Party, told the crowd he had come as a mediator and said he felt ashamed about the recent violence which he said was tarnishing the name of South Africa across the continent.
But he was heckled throughout and video shared on Twitter shows crowds walking out of the meeting.
A diplomatic row had ensued between Nigeria’s government and its South African counterpart over the violence. President Muhammadu Buhari sent an envoy to South Africa to “express Nigeria’s displeasure over the treatment of her citizens” and recalled Nigeria’s High Commissioner to South Africa over the violence.
At least 10 people, two of them foreign nationals, have been killed in the violence over the last week, while police said they on Thursday that they had arrested more than 420 people.
Mobs began looting foreign-owned shops and torching foreigners’ lorries on Monday. The attacks started after South African lorry drivers staged a nationwide strike to protest against the employment of foreign drivers.
The country has become a magnet for migrants from other parts of Africa because it has one of the continent’s biggest and most developed economies. But there is also high unemployment in South Africa and some people feel foreigners are taking their jobs.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Union South Africa (NUSA) has urged Nigerians residing in that country to stay away from hot spots where the ongoing violent protest march by the Zulu Hostel dwellers in Johannesburg was taking place.
The Publicity Secretary of the union, Mr Habib Miller, who gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Lagos, said it was necessary to avoid a repeat of what happened last week.
“The Police need to be proactive this time around so that lives and properties of people, especially, foreign nationals will be protected. “Our mission in Johannesburg has been informed,” Miller said.