Some Nigerians in South Africa have cried out against the xenophobic attacks on non-indigenes in the country.
In separate telephone interviews with Punch, the Nigerian migrants expressed their fear of attacks as death threats were being circulated on social media.
A Nigerian, Itunu Bodunrin, who on Monday had attended his master’s degree graduation ceremony at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, was unable to leave the school campus afterwards due to the violence in the town. Bodunrin forwarded a text message to Punch which, according to him, had been circulated among South African residents via an instant messaging mobile application, WhatsApp.
In the message, signed by several groups, including the Patriotic Movement, Pan Local Forum, Unemployed Workers Forum and Anti-Crime Movement, Nigerians and other African foreigners were warned to leave the country.
It read in part, “Dear neighbour from Africa and other parts of the world, we have travelled the world and have not found one country that allows the floods of humans across its borders as South Africa is experiencing. Even in war-torn parts like Syria, Ukraine, Yemen and Somali.We were seven million people in Johannesburg city in 2011. Today, we have an estimated 13 million. In Johannesburg alone, you have taken over entire suburbs: Yeoville, Berea, Bez Valley, Turfontein, among many. You have even moved into rural parts of our country that have 80-per-cent unemployment, and there are no visible signs that you have jobs either.
“We want to be proudly part of the geographic construct called Africa, but we are as different from one another as Kenyans are from Nigerians; Ivorians from Chadians, etc. We are pleading with you to return to your home countries. Go and build up those countries so that we can all live in economic, social and political prosperity and peace as neighbours. The genocide in this corner of Africa will be far worse than what happened in Rwanda in 1994. Then the entire continent will be condemned to ashes. Is that what you want?
“South Africans not fully employed or who were found guilty of crimes, were recently repatriated from Nigeria and rightly so. Our people are preparing for war against all foreigners (from Bulgaria, Pakistan and Bangladesh to Africa, north of the Limpopo) and we are all very scared. Please go home and build Africa. Millions will die if you don’t. This we can guarantee.”
Also, Samson Ojako, a master’s degree student studying Mathematics also at the University of KwaZulu-Natal noted that looting is now on a high level for over a week.
“Those that opened their shops were attacked by the Zulu. During all of this, those of us on campus were warned by the school management to stay indoors. They said no one should leave the school premises, especially during the weekend.”
Ojako noted that a large number of Zulus often migrated from their villages into town on weekends in order to launch attacks on non-nationals. He likened the last one week to life in a refugee camp, saying that those living on campus could not go out to shop for food.
“A lot of people are living in fear, especially the ladies. Even for us who are guys, last week, we had to move in groups,” he said.
Olawale Olawepo, another Nigerian studying for a doctorate degree in Industrial Organisation and Labour Studies said the school authorities also warned students against taking public transportation.
The saga apparently started with the speech by King Goodwill Zwelithini who last month said that foreigners must pack up and leave the country. Soon reports about attacks by locals on immigrants broke out.
Ten Nigerians were said to be among those attacked. The king, whose so-called “hate speech” is believed to have incited violence, blamed the media for misinterpreting his words. But it did not help to solve either the international diplomatic conflict, nor the violence on the local level.