Perceptions of Nigerians in South Africa Need to Change
Greetings and Welcome (Barry to do)
It was a conscious decision to meet with the press today, the 1st of October 2019. Not only is today is Nigeria’s Independence Day, but this week we also look forward to the arrival of His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who is scheduled to be South Africa for the highlight of the Bi-National Commission on the 3rd of October 2019.
I want to highlight that, while the xenophobic attacks on our nationals happened almost a month ago, we elected to hold this press conference now because we wanted to contribute an informed and holistic intervention.
Some of our Key Issues include:
- The xenophobic violence that erupted in August 2019 was largely the result of incorrect information or rumour that a South Africa taxi driver was killed by a Nigerian drug dealer. This has since been discovered to be false. Yet, this fact has not been widely reported. This is problematic because it perpetuates the stereotype that all Nigerians are drug dealers and criminals.
- We believe that it is as a result of this false information that led to Nigerian-owned businesses being the most affected in the latest attacks that occurred mainly in Pretoria and Johannesburg.
- Furthermore, some very respectable South African statesmen and women made statements, in the heat of the crises that supported the dominant narrative which criminalizes and demonizes Nigerians in general.
- The xenophobic / Afrophobic violence is a direct and clear threat to the relationship between Nigeria and South Africa and, if we fully considered just how important these two nations are to the continent, this issue should be a major concern to all Africans. Mr. Michael Gamwo from Wesgro will be able to provide better context of some of the economics between South Africa and Nigeria.
In deciding to hold this media conference, we wish to acknowledge the following facts:
- The NCWC wish to state categorically that we recognize the fact that South Africa has its own challenges and, its primary responsibility should be to its millions of citizens.
- The NCWC sincerely understands the difficulties that the formerly oppressed groups of this country are still going through; 25 years after the end of apartheid.
- There is no doubt that the greatest proportion of means of production and resources of this country has not been fairly and judiciously distributed to address the legacies of apartheid, hence, there is genuine concern and even sense of frustration amongst our South African black brothers and sisters.
- We equally acknowledge that some of our compatriots have not conducted themselves in the ways that add socioeconomic values to South Africa.
These are all issues that need to be considered when thinking about solutions for the increased Afrophobia in South Africa. There are many mitigating factors.
Considering what I have just mentioned, the NCWC wishes to draw your attention to the following:
- The economic and political relationship between Nigeria and South Africa has for some reason not reflected in the lives and activities of the Nigerian professionals and entrepreneurs residing in South Africa. It is a fact that both Nigeria and South Africa hold a huge chunk of the economic pie of Africa, and the actual trade between the two countries is huge, but for some strange reasons, the multiple bilateral agreements and economic activities between the countries ignores the high number of Nigerian professionals and entrepreneurs residing here in South Africa.
- We raise this as a concern because it is our opinion that the Nigerian South African Bi-National Commission (BNC) should develop mechanisms to ensure that the many bilateral and trade agreements between these two countries also uplift small businesses, enhance better citizens diplomacy and to also recognize the activities of Nigerian professionals.
- We also concerned that despite the numerous agreements between Nigeria and South Africa, it appears not much is done in the area social cohesion and harmony, therefore, the NCWC strongly suggest that government departments like the Department of Arts and Culture should consider programmes and projects that will actively bring our community and the indigenous peoples of South Africa closer. We believe that there are many things that unites in the cultural practices of South Africa and Nigeria than divide us and, if people can find themselves through the expression of culture; it will contribute to addressing xenophobic violence.
- We are concerned about the gender violence impacting all girls and women in South Africa. We are committed to equality of all human beings, regardless of their nationality or gender, and stand against all forms of gender-based violence and human trafficking.
- The NCWC is calling on the government and people of South Africa to deploy the numerous programmes and structures of this country to address socioeconomic imbalances and poverty that are still prevalent amongst the racial groups that were victims of apartheid.
- The NCWC and its partners represented here today wish to put on record that there are numerous Nigerians with different skills sets, professional background, career and education, and we are ready to work with the government and people of South Africa to add value to South Africa. We want to be part of the solution.
- The NCWC wish to call on the Department of Home Affairs, Department of Small & Medium Scale Enterprises and Department of Economic Development to urgently consider how to develop mechanisms to recognize small and medium scale businesses initiated, owned and run by African migrants as employers of labour and contributors to the overall economic growth of South Africa.
Many of our countrymen and women employ South Africans in corner shops, restaurants, bars, salons, stands in flea-markets etc, for which many pay the equivalent or even higher than the current minimum wage as prescribed in South Africa. Unfortunately, the thousands of jobs created within this stream are not recognized because they are not captured into the mainstream economy of the country.
- We wish to state that it is untruthful, damaging and dangerous to promote a narrative that tends to suggest that all Nigerians in South Africa conspired to export crime to this country. It is highly regrettable the dominant narrative in South Africa paints the picture of a group of people that are on a mission to export crime into the country.
The NCWC is committed to changing this narrative, to one that is not only more positive, but that more accurately reflect the contributions made by Nigerians in this country.
We would like to add that the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the most populated black nation in the world. With almost 200 million people, it is a complex and diverse society within its national borders, and also within the Nigerian community living and working in South Africa. Perhaps, we should draw attention to the fact that almost 600 Nigerians wilfully returned to Nigeria, and not one of them had a criminal record. This is a fact. So, it stands to reason that the label that ALL Nigerians are criminals, is absolutely incorrect.
When it comes to the dissemination of information that allegedly involve Nigerians, the NCWC urges South African media and criminal justice structures to be responsible in its duties, and to ensure that Nigerians are treated fairly.