Nigerians in South Africa advised to stay home

Tony Ekata, Pretoria

The Nigeria High Commission in Pretoria has advised Nigerians in South Africa to suspend all business activities pending the resolution of the ongoing xenophobic crisis.

In a statement, they were advised to keep in touch with one another and the diplomatic missions on contact numbers provided.

The Consulate General in Johannesburg had earlier made available 2 hotlines for reports on xenophobic attacks.

Crackdown

Also on Thursday, South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Malusi Gigaba, announced in Cape Town that the government had commenced a crackdown on businesses that hire undocumented foreigners in South Africa‚ saying they contribute to tension between foreign nationals and locals.

Gigaba was referring to the arrests in Pretoria on Thursday of scores of undocumented foreign nationals employed by three Spar supermarkets.

The minister disclosed that 19 women and 28 men had been arrested at Montana Spar and the manager had been charged for contravening the country’s labour and immigration laws.

He said a further six women as well and nine men had been arrested at Zambezi Spar and that the manager would be charged. One employee had been arrested at Doornpoort Spar‚ but the manager had not been present. These arrests all took place in the Tshwane area.

Blame

The Home Affairs Minister argued that in many cases, business encourages irregular migration‚ and those contributing to questionable labour practices must be held to account.

 

“It is far easier and convenient for some to target desperate and vulnerable migrants than the unscrupulous employers who deliberately fuel tensions in the labour market‚” Gigaba said.

The minister vowed that his department would now target businesses that employed undocumented foreigners and would work harder to ensure that businesses comply with labour laws.

 “[Businesses] should not fuel tension‚ playing locals against foreigners‚ but should be on the side of the law‚” Gigaba said.

“This is the message we are taking to the rest of business‚ and will feature strongly in our upcoming meetings. There will be workplace inspections and penalties for employing undocumented foreigners will be imposed‚” he added.

Gigaba also appealed to disgruntled locals not to take the laws into their hands.

South African labour laws require that businesses employ a minimum of 60 percent local people.

Fear

Meanwhile, there is apprehension within the migrant communities, as there are warnings of further attacks on foreigners. Officials of migrants’ associations are however appealing to foreigners, particularly Nigerians who have been targeted in recent attacks, to stay away from trouble spots and not to retaliate if attacked.

Mr. Emeka Collins, spokesperson for Nigeria Union South Africa (NUSA), made an appeal on Africa Tonight, an ANN7 TV current affairs programme urging Nigerians to be good guests by obeying the laws of the land and respecting their hosts.

Mr. Collins also called on the host communities to tolerate their guests, majority of whom are contributing positively to the development of South Africa:

“It’s very important for the South African host community to understand that all Nigerians are not involved in crime and more so, criminality has no nationality. Crime can be found in any community. Crime can affect any person; whether you are a Nigerian or South African. Our message out there is that there are a lot of Nigerians that are contributing positively to the development of South Africa. We have people in the health sector, we have a lot of Nigerians in the academic sector, we have a lot of Nigerians and they are making positive contributions. What we say is that we have confidence in the authorities; the judicial system of South Africa and as such if any individual is caught in any sort of crime, the person should be arrested and prosecuted and not for everybody to be painted with the same brush. It’s not proper,” the NUSA spokesperson said.

 

Nnenna.O