EDITORIAL: Ramaphosa’s half-hearted answer to illegal killing of Nigerians in South Africa
Protection of lives and property which is the foremost responsibility of the state power seems to have been relegated to the background especially in Africa. Under their noses, people get killed and they look elsewhere. Whether killings are politically, economically or socially motivated, the government should be able to stem them in order to give account any life under its boundaries.
While reacting to attacks and killings of foreigners, including Nigerians more especially, South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, said that South Africa does not hate Nigerians; that the killing of Nigerians by South Africans is a matter of criminality. Ramaphosa in Abuja told Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari that Nigerians were not specifically targeted. Full stop.
One would have expected Ramaphosa to go ahead and tell world, on Nigeria’s instance, how far the government of South Africa has gone to bring perpetrators of such crimes to justice. Yes, Ramaphosa is barely five months in office but within the few months, more than five Nigerians have been reported killed illegally in South Africa and their businesses destroyed in Rutenberg. Ramaphosa should have been able to explain how far his government has gone either stop these killings or punish their perpetrators.
There should be statistics. On the killings in February, March and May and in July, this is what the government has been able to do. This will go a long way to assure foreigners in South Africa that the government is making effort to stem xenophobic attacks. It will also serve as caution to South Africans who take delight in killing and maiming people from other countries.
The government of South Africa should let its citizens understand that just the way Nigerians are living in South Africa, South Africans are also living in Nigeria. South Africa even have some of the most thriving businesses in Nigeria—the MTN and DSTV. What if Nigerians start killings South Africans and destroying their businesses in Nigeria to balance the terror? The result would be catastrophic.
Ramaphosa should be interested in ascertaining how many South Africans who have been killed in Nigeria in similar circumstances? Are there no criminality and criminals in Nigeria?
The South African President came to Nigeria, to among other things persuade Buhari to sign the African Free Trade Agreement, a fine document that could foster economic prosperity in Africa. Free trade in Africa should also embody free movement of African citizens to at least other African countries without being molested. To the ordinary citizens who may not understand the intricacies of international trade relations among African countries, their only concern would be their protection in any African country they have pitched their tent. These citizens need to be assured of the protection of their lives and their hard-earned property.
African leaders should sharpen their sense of protection of, not only Africans, but also other nationals in their countries.
Ramaphosa said: “I want to state here and now that South Africans do not have any form of negative disposition or hatred towards Nigerians and there are many Nigerians in South Africa and in a number of places, in our country, they live side by side (with South Africans). They cooperate very well and some are in the corporate structures of our various companies and some are traders and some are into a number of things.
“So, I want to dispel this notion that when a Nigerian loses his or her life in South Africa, it is as a result of an intentional action by South Africans against Nigerians. That is simply not true.
“You will know that South Africa has a number of challenges, one of which is criminality and which is all pervasive. We have over a number of years been bringing down a number of crimes in our country and we are working on a concerted basis to ensure that crime does come down. And the criminality that we have is borne out of a number of factors – one of those is unemployment among people.
“Twenty seven per cent of South Africans are unemployed which amounts to about nine million and most of these are young people. Poverty is still all pervasive in South Africa and this emanates from our very sad history of apartheid misrule.
“There is still inequality in South Africa, a few people are extremely rich and majority of our people are very poor and all these factors and other social factors have contributed to the high levels of crime. And criminality is something like I said that we are focusing on, doing everything to bring it down.
“And on top of everything else, people in various parts of the country who get engulfed in acts of criminality, majority of them are South Africans and some of them will be foreign nationals and will either be Nigerians and other people from other countries.
“These are acts of criminality and I want to end by saying that, when we were involved in our struggle, we said that the South Africa that we are fighting for is the South Africa which will regard everyone who lives in South Africa on the basis of equality, respect for human rights. And we said that South Africa belongs to all the people who live in it.
“So, Nigerians who are in South Africa are also part of our community. They can never be targeted on an intentional basis as people who must either be attacked or killed and when that happens, l will like all of us to see that as an act of criminality which in the main affect many South Africans in the various parts of our country. In that regard, and we will like that you should never think that it is being done against Nigerians intentionally.
“It is an act of criminality and our government is determined to bring the levels of criminality down and also to go after those who perpetrate these acts of criminality so that anyone who attacks anyone in South Africa will be pursued with the might of the law to make sure they are brought to justice.”, he said.
Nothing in Ramaphosa’s answer to the killing of not less than 120 Nigerians in South Africa in less than three years is satisfactory. The government must wake up to its responsibilities to stem retaliatory and ripples attacks on African citizens anywhere they find themselves.