For the past week, the story about the tragic fate of a Nigerian businessman at the hands of some South Africans has dominated reports coming out from that country. Ikejiaku Chinedu, 35, was, allegedly, beaten to death on Tuesday by guards of a private security firm.
Secretary of the Limpopo chapter of the Nigeria Union in South Africa, Collins Mgbo, said Chinedu, a native of Ogwa, in Mbaitoli Local Government Area of Imo State, was killed at the outskirts of Polokwane, Limpopo Province, and he was married with three children.
“Information available to us showed that guards of the security company chased and arrested him, he was beaten,” Mgbo was reported as saying. “The autopsy result we have showed that there were bruises all over his body, showing that he was beaten to death or suffocated.”
The reason for the gruesome act is unclear. What is known is that citizen Chinedu’s murder is another addition to the mountain of savage killings and maiming of fellow Africans, especially Nigerians, for which South Africa has become notorious since the end of apartheid. In this year alone, about 15 Nigerians are said to have died in South Africa under such cruel circumstances.
Nigeria needs to show sterner responses to cruelties like the one meted out to Chinedu as a warning to the South African authorities to get serious with measures aimed at curbing the unrelenting xenophobic tendencies among its citizens.
About 10 foreigners were killed in April last year in South Africa following almost two weeks of violence that targeted Africans and Asians who came to the country after the white-minority rule, apartheid, ended in 1994. Nigerians are perennial victims of the xenophobia in South Africa. Though no Nigerian was killed in those attacks last year, the Nigerian Union in South Africa said Nigerians lost more than 4.6 million Rand or N84 million during the attacks.
In July last year, a Nigerian, Nonso Odo, 30, from Amangwu-Nkwerre, in Imo State, was allegedly tortured to death by South African police officers in Hillbrow, Johannesburg.
Curbing such brutish acts should be a priority for Nigeria and South Africa. This is more so in the wake of the growing economic ties between both countries. In 2012, about $3.6 billion was traded between the two countries.
There has been a significant growth in South African investments in Nigeria in the last 15 years, according to the Nigeria/South Africa Chamber of Commerce. Chairman of the Nigeria/South Africa Chamber of Commerce, Foluso Phillips, said this was possible “because Nigeria created the opportunity for such engagement and South Africa displayed the capability to make these investments.”
About 150 South African business organisations are currently operating in Nigeria, despite the former’s allegedly restrictive policies, which have made it difficult for Nigerians to invest in the country.
The xenophobia in South Africa poses a serious danger to these economic interests. Many fear that the intolerance in South Africa may increase the threat level to the point that it would be hard to control reprisals and hostilities towards its offshore interests. Perhaps, what is not generally known about the hostility to Nigerians on the part of South Africans is that the chauvinistic mind-set is largely in line with popular thinking at both street and official levels. Nigerians are often hated because of their perceived inclination to dominate the social and economic spaces. Such feelings tend to feed resentments against Nigerians and attacks on the flimsiest of pretexts.
But what should matter is whether Nigerians are playing by the rule in their host country. Given Nigeria’s huge population and the enormous human and material wealth Mother Nature has endowed the country with, the tendency for the citizens to emigrate and spread their economic tentacles to other lands should not be surprising to anyone. Hating Nigerians on the flimsy excuse of such natural progress is not only cruel, it also diminishes South Africa.
Besides, South Africa is too heavily indebted to Nigeria to allow such inanity to come between its citizens and Nigerians. Recall the huge investments Nigerians had made at individual, group, and governmental levels towards the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa. As a frontline state in the anti-apartheid struggle at the time, Nigeria risked frightening repercussions from the apartheid regime of the Afrikaner-dominated National Party and its Western friends. Nigeria – indeed, Africans – do not deserve the tragic payback they seem to be getting from post-apartheid South Africa.
The South African government must act to curtail the excesses its citizens. Nigeria should demand this in the wake of last Tuesday’s murder of Chinedu.