South African police said on Friday that they were on high alert monitoring the violence that erupted earlier in the week in some parts of the country leading to the death of foreigners and destruction of their property.
The Force also said that some persons who had been looting shops since Sunday had continued till date.
It added that it had arrested more suspects who had been looting shops in the Gauteng Province.
Police spokesperson, Mrs Mathapelo Peters, said 74 persons were arrested in Katlehong on Thursday, bringing the total number of arrests since the violence erupted in Johannesburg to 497.
She said the situation in Katlehong and other areas in the province remained calm as the number of incidents continued to decline.
Peters said 11 people were killed during this period but that only seven had been directly linked to the incidents of violence.
She noted that police would continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding each death.
Gauteng Provincial Commissioner, Mr Elias Mawela, therefore, called on the people to respect the law, while warning them to stop spreading fake news in the social media.
Mawela added, “We must work together to make sure that no one gets to undermine the authority of the State and together condemn the violence and criminality, towards ensuring the safety of everyone in the province.”
Meanwhile, more than 300 Nigerians have registered for evacuation from South Africa following the approval given by Federal Government that those interested in leaving the former apartheid country should indicate interest and be airlifted home free.
The offer followed the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in the country.
Spokesperson for Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ferdinand Nwonye, told one of our correspondents on Friday that over 300 Nigerians had registered for the exercise, adding that the time and date of departure would be disclosed later.
Chairman of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, on Wednesday provided aircraft to evacuate Nigerians wishing to return home on account of the xenophobic attacks.
Nwonye had said in a statement, “The ministry wishes to inform the general public that following the recent unfortunate xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals, including Nigerians in South Africa, proprietor of Air Peace Airlines, Mr Allen Onyema, has volunteered to send a plane from September 6 to evacuate Nigerians who wish to return to Nigeria free of charge.
“The general public is hereby advised to inform their relatives in South Africa to take advantage of this laudable gesture.”
Over the years, Nigerians had come under a series of attacks by South Africans with many killed. In the latest incident, which started on Sunday morning, no fewer than three persons had died and over 50 shops and businesses belonging to Nigerians and other nationals destroyed by South Africans.
The latest incident, coupled with several others in the past, did not only lead to reprisals on South African businesses in Nigeria between Tuesday and Thursday, it had also triggered a major diplomatic row between Nigeria and South Africa.
This led to Nigeria pulling out of World Economic Summit holding in Cape Town and plans to recall the High Commissioner, Mr Kabiru Bala, while President Muhammadu Buhari had sent a special envoy to South Africa.
The special envoy, Mr Ahmed Abubakar, who is the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, was said to have arrived in the OR Tambo Airport on Thursday evening and was scheduled to meet with President Cyril Ramophosa in Pretoria on Friday to express Nigeria’s displeasure at the treatment meted out to Nigerians to the host President during the meeting.
Meanwhile, in its bid to ensure safety of Nigerians, Foreign Affairs Ministry advised interested Nigerians to liaise with the High Commission of Nigeria in Pretoria and the Consulate-General of Nigeria in Johannesburg for further arrangements.
Nwonye stated, “They are collating names and as at the last one hour (3.50pm), they have registered like 300 persons and the meeting of the special envoy is ongoing, the high commissioner is there with him.”
‘Police protect S’Africans during xenophobic attacks’
Meanwhile, a Nigerian resident in Johannesburg, Frank Igiake, claimed their attackers were usually protected by police.
Igiake, an auto mechanic, who resides in Johannesburg, said he would relocate to Nigeria after selling off his property.
He said, “This xenophobic attack is telling on us and we do not know what step they would take next. I’m ready to return but I must first sell my house. I have a house in Johannesburg and a business, so, it will not be an immediate return.
“During the recent attack, in my workshop, the attackers burnt two vehicles and we had to run to save our lives. We went somewhere and watched them destroying our property.
“The police were there but they did not stop them. The police would even prevent us from stopping them. If you attempt to fight them you might lose your life in the process.
“If you kill any of them the police will arrest you that you have killed a citizen.’’
We’ll fund xenophobic victims’ suit against S’Africa – Reps
In response to the losses incurred by Nigerians, House of Representatives has said it will approve funds for victims of the attacks who wish to take legal action against the country.
It also said it was considering compensation for those affected by the attacks.
Speaker, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, said these while addressing journalists at a ‘world press conference’ held in Abuja on Friday.
He was accompanied by some principal officers of the Lower chamber, including Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase; Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa; Deputy Leader, Peter Akpatason; Deputy Chief Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha; and Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Buba Yakub.
The Speaker warned South Africa against labelling Nigerians in their country as criminals, asking it not to add insult to Nigeria’s grief.
He also noted that for South Africa not to be seen as encouraging and justifying the xenophobic attacks by its citizens, the government should openly dismiss the narrative that the attacks were provoked by alleged criminal activities of Nigerians in the country.
While commending actions so far taken by the Federal Government, he said the President should direct Ministry of Health to assist the bereaved families in expediting the return of their loved ones who had lost their lives in the unfortunate events.
He said, “The time for speaking has long passed and the time for action has come to us with a fierce urgency demanding nothing less than our total commitment to revoking the old arrangements that have made such abominations against our people possible.”
“Too many a time, we are called to stand as pallbearers, bringing home to bury the bodies of our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, our children, savaged and decimated. What is their offence? That they dared to dream of glory and profit beyond our borders; and having dreamt, they endeavoured to make real the visions of their heart.
“We reject entirely the obvious attempt to change the true narrative of events by casting the recently organised acts of violence as a merely internecine conflict between gangs fighting for turf.”
Gbajabiamila stressed that the House was ready to authorise funding “for those citizens who wish to take legal action against identified perpetrators of the violence as well as those who sponsored them or permitted their actions to occur and to continue.”
He pointed out that the House would work with all stakeholders within and outside government to evolve and implement a plan to evacuate Nigerians from where internal crises and conflicts have made the terrain unsafe for them.
He added, “We expect that Government of South Africa will conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations and make public their findings, whatever they may be. Where any of these claims are determined to be true, we expect also that the individuals responsible will be held accountable to the highest degree allowed by law.”
Gbajabiamila announced the plan of the House to suspend its two-month annual recess to discuss the crisis, adding that the lower chamber would invite Minister of Foreign Affairs (Geoffrey Onyeama); Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa (Kabiru Bala); Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (Abike Dabiri-Erewa) and other stakeholders to review the issue.
A member of the House, Mr Kingsley Chinda, had in a message to our correspondent on Tuesday called on the National Assembly to reconvene for two days and condemn the alleged refusal by the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa to protect citizens running to it for safety.
Buhari meets Gbajabiamila over xenophobia, $9.6bn judgment debt
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday met behind closed doors with Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, at Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Speaking to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, Gbajabiamila said the National Assembly was on the same page with the President and the government regarding the xenophobic attacks on Nigerian citizens in South Africa.
Gbajabiamila also revealed that they deliberated on the issue of the budget circle as well as the $9.6bn London judgment against Nigeria.
He expressed the hope that the executive arm would submit the 2020 appropriation bill to the National Assembly before the end of September to achieve the January to December budget cycle.
”Clearly we are in opposition to the $9.6bn judgement and steps will be taken,’’ he added.
Over 200 Nigerians killed in S’Africa in five years— NUSA
Nigerian Union South Africa on Friday disclosed that no fewer than 200 Nigerians had been killed in South Africa in the past five years.
President, NUSA, Mr Adetola Olubajo, said although there was no official figure of Nigerians living in South Africa, the number would not be less than 800,000.
He said, “We have a rough figure of the last three to five years. I think there have been over 200 Nigerians that have been killed at the last count, either through extrajudicial killings; that is, through excessive use of force by the police; killing by unknown assailants because there were a lot of Nigerians that were shot dead. So, those are the two major ways in which Nigerians are losing their lives violently.”
He also said only a very small number of Nigerians had shown interest in returning home and that they had been directed to the Nigerian Consulate in South Africa.
Olubajo added, “There are lots of places in South Africa where Nigerians are engaging in lucrative (legitimate) professions, but most times, it’s those few bad eggs that are seen on the streets.
“Any reasonable person that wants to say the truth will tell you that Nigerians are doing well and making us proud. It is those few bad eggs that are being projected in the news.”