The Truth About So-called Xenophobia in South Africa


South Africa is a beautiful country. For about 15 years now, yours sincerely has known the country and its very friendly and hospitable people. South Africans are generally peaceful and peace-loving, so I really don’t know where this violence comes from. The Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs came out clearly with a statement that no Nigerian was killed in South Africa but a lot of fake videos and fake posts were done on social media by those who want to perpetrate violence and destroy the friendship between the two African giants.

But the image of Nigerians in South Africa in particular and most other countries generally is not good. In South Africa, these unscrupulous Nigerians run criminal syndicates, take away their women, put their youth into drugs, compromise their police with drug money, and no one should wonder if occasionally the citizens of that country take the law into their hands since law enforcement is weakened. They are known as criminals, drug peddlers, haughty, noisy and aggressive so much so that if you are gentle or different people don’t believe you are a Nigerian.

Dr Bala Mohammed, one of my favourite columnists, wrote a piece entitled “South Africa’s Xenophobia: If the Truth Be Told”, which is shared with you my dear readers below:

Yesterday, Deutshewelle (Voice of Germany) Hausa Service and the BBC Hausa Service both called me up to discuss the South African so-called xenophobic situation in their respective weekend panel programmes, ‘Ra’ayin Mallamai’ and ‘Ra’ayi Riga’. They wanted a perspective on this matter from a no-holds-barred angle; and I gave it to them as I will give it to you now.

I get called up on the matter of South Africa regularly because, having lived, worked and studied there, 2001-2002, I know the country quite well. I had lived in Durban and been an ‘adopted son’ of the late Shaikh Ahmad Deedat when he was alive (readers may recall my ‘A Letter from Durban in 2001’). I became quite close to his son Yousuf Deedat whom I hosted in Nigeria back in 2007.

While I lived in South Africa, I was not your typical ‘Nigerian’ because, even in 2001, the term ‘Nigerian’ was synonymous with ‘crime’, ‘drugs’, ‘prostitution’, etc. So whenever one was introduced as a Nigerian, a typical South African would instinctively recoil, as if attacked by a snake. That was the fact even back in 2001.

So most of my South African associates — at the University of KwaZulu Natal and at the Islamic Propagation Centre International mosque in downtown Durban near my residence – never believed I was Nigerian because they had never seen a Nigerian Muslim or a Nigerian that was not involved in one crime or another. And because I speak Arabic, was a shade fair-complexioned and was always dressed in Muslim attire, I was more often than not introduced as ‘Sudanese’.

Let me narrate the story of Khumalo, the bus driver, to illustrate the view held by common South Africans about Nigerians. Khumalo drove the bus plying between our university and downtown Durban. Every evening, I would take the last bus out of campus. As I lived quite close to the bus terminal, I was almost always the last passenger Khumalo would drop off. We therefore became quite close.

One day Khumalo (who all along also believed I was ‘Sudanese’) saw me speak with some Nigerians on the bus. Before I alighted, Khumalo called me close and said: ‘Mr. Muhammad, I saw you talking to those Nigerians. Please avoid them. They are not good people. You shouldn’t be seen with them…’ and many unpalatable things about the Nigerians he knew. I thanked him sincerely and went on my way. 2001! So there!

Have people so quickly forgotten the South African drugs war that led to the Ozubulu church massacre in Anambra State on August 6, 2017? Remember ‘How $5M Settlement Caused Massacre’ (www.pulse.ng/gist/anambra.ng/gist/anambra-church-killings-how-dallar5m-settlement-caused-massacre-insiders-claim/xhxqv85.amp>)?:

“More revelations have been coming out on the brutal massacre…where 13 worshippers were gunned down during mass… According to some Igbo people resident in South Africa, the cause of the massacre is a bloody war over drugs that has seen many people killed both in South Africa and in Nigeria…

“It was from a botched agreement between the alleged principal actors Aloysius Ikegwuonu known as Bishop and his kinsman known as Obrocho who had been involved in a drug deal with the proceed amounting to millions of dollars. Instead of sharing the money realized, Bishop played a fast one on Obrocho and made away with the money… When the crisis started, the Igbo community in South Africa waded into the matter in order to bring lasting peace between the two brothers on one hand and their groups on the other hand…but it didn’t work”

For another perspective, read also: “I Have Lived in South Africa for Almost 20 Years: Here is My Experience” posted September 5 by one ‘anago40’ on www.nairaland.com where the writer says, among others:

I have lived in SA [South Africa] for almost 20 years. What you see as pure xenophobia is actually community vigilantism gone wrong or hijacked by criminals. Some of the shops looted and destroyed are actually covers for a serious crime. Some of our brothers take over entire areas and turn them into drug markets. But because the law in SA does not allow police to arrest criminals unless with evidence or unless shot at, so what happens is the drug guys hide these drugs in shops, restaurants etc. and use as a face.

“There are up to 30 public ‘drug’ markets in Johannesburg alone. These are areas where 50 to 200 Nigerians converge on street corners to sell drugs. That’s just in Johannesburg, and excludes other places. The community knows and they try to inform the police. Sometimes these guys get arrested and bribe their way out; when it fails the community takes laws into their hands. Nigerians are not being targeted per se. The target is street drug dealers and yahoo boys who are mostly Nigerians.

“One strategy of selling drugs is to befriend young secondary school girls and introduce them to drugs. They get hooked and they start stealing and prostitution to feed the habit. Soon the entire area deteriorates. Now, why I am sharing this with you is that the drug dealers are distracting attention. They are trying to make the Nigerian Government arise in anger and defend ‘Nigerians’, i.e., defend drug dealers. If they succeed, they’d have staged a powerful coup. They’d have entered an official Mafioso level, protected by Government. So how can we accuse others of killing us when we are perpetrating it…?”

Perhaps one also needs to read this: “Nigerians Killing One Another in South Africa – Ibeto”, Daily Trust, August 31, 2018 (https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/-nigerians-killing-one-another-in-south-africa-265605.html), reported by Ahmed Tahir Ajobe, Minna:

“The immediate past Nigerian Ambassador to South Africa, Ahmed Ibeto, has disclosed that the recurring incidents of murder involving Nigerians were being carried out by Nigerians themselves contrary to claims of xenophobic attacks. Ibeto said from the statistics of killings and their remote and immediate causes available to the Nigerian Embassy, most of the incidents were as a result of conflict over drugs between Nigerians.

“I can authoritatively tell you that, out of four of such killings involving Nigerians, three are by Nigerians themselves as a result of rivalry, shady deals, cultism and drugs. He added that, in most cases, the conflict is as a result of territorial control between drug barons which often results in deaths and destructions…”

Let us all be aware: poor South Africans are only illegally taking the law into their own hands in reaction to lack of action by their own security agencies on Nigerian drug traffickers and other criminals. All other affected Africans are collateral damage. Shi ke nan!

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