NIGERIAN citizens resident in South Africa have resorted to self-defence in the face of increased xenophobic attacks by angry mobs who have taken their frustrations out against African migrants especially Nigerians.
Over the last week, there has been a significant increase in attacks against Nigerians living in South Africa, sparking off bitter protests. many Nigerian civil groups have called for a boycott of South African businesses operating in the country and several marches have been held to lodge protests with the high commission.
Amid fears that there are plans by South Africans to carry out further attacks against Nigerians, especially those resident in Pretoria and Johannesburg, self-defence has now become popular. On Thursday, several Nigerians living in the cities are believed to have defended themselves after being pre-informed about the scheduled attacks.
Also, the Nigerian high commission in South Africa informed Nigerians of the imminent attacks and consequently advised that they should close their businesses. Many Nigerians subsequently stayed indoors but many of them armed themselves and were ready to battle the attackers who consequently exercised caution.
Yesterday, the South African Police used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to disperse anti-immigrant protesters in Pretoria. In what could have been a bloody clash, both the protesting South Africans and foreigners were armed with sticks, bricks and knives and seeking to calm the situation, President Jacob Zuma condemned the attacks.
President Zuma said: “Many citizens of other countries living in South Africa are law abiding and contribute to the economy of the country positively.”
Former Nigerian footballer Peterside Idah, who is currently living in South Africa, said: “It’s a standoff in Pretoria as Nigerians have refused to hide. South Africans marching are being confronted by Nigerians carrying guns.
“Nigerians armed themselves and waited for South Africans and the involvement of the police tamed the rioters and made the situation to calm down. Before the xenophobic attacks were against black foreigners but the recent one was targeted at Nigerians specifically.”
Nigerians are being accused of doing drugs and prostitution in South Africa and have thus become the target of local anger. So far, no deaths were reported yesterday but the police are still out in full force to prevent any further clashes.