By Peace Kanu
In the last two weeks, the world has listened and watched with bated breath, news of the recent spate of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, which hve claimed the lives of at least six foreign nationals, including a 14 year-old boy resident in the country.
The latest flare-up of violence which began two weeks ago, was reported to have been triggered by a statement attributed to Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, in which he was alleged to have told migrants to go home, while addressing community members in the province following rising tensions between foreigners and locals.
Though King Zwelithini has denied the allegation and blamed the media for deliberately distorting his speech in order to sell newspapers, the violent clashes that followed left property worth thousands of dollars destroyed and hundreds of shops looted, especially in Kwazulu-Natal province, including Kwamashu and Umlazi, homeland of the Zulus.
Xenophobic attacks, no matter why they occur, not only dent the image of the affected countries in the eyes of the world but also undermines the founding principles that led to the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity-OAU, now called African Union, a fact that was extraneously stressed by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Dlamini Zuma, who is also a South African.
According to Dr Zuma, the OAU played a critical role in mobilising International solidarity to end Apartheid in South Africa. In light of this historical fact, she described the incidents in Kwazulu Natal province as particularly unfortunate, especially as the continent approaches the celebration of Africa Month in May, to remember the founding principles and objectives of the OAU.
Dr Zuma posited that whatever the challenges, no circumstances justify attacks on people, whether foreigners or locals, describing it as unacceptable and appealing for dialogue among communities to address and find peaceful solutions to these challenges. Echoing the position of the AU Chairperson, President Jacob Zuma has equally condemned the violence and constituted a team of Ministers to put an end to it.
Notwithstanding these measures by the Pretoria government, several countries particularly across Africa, have either appealed to their citizens to stay away from the epicentre of the attacks or made arrangements to evacuate their nationals from South Africa.
In this specific wave of attacks, the more than 800,000 Nigerians resident in South Africa have not been targeted but Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the Head of the country’s Mission in South Africa is working closely with authorities in Pretoria to safeguard the lives and property of Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike, alongside other precautionary measures.
What remains indisputable from the recurring xenophobic violence in South Africa is the need to urgently address issues of relative deprivation, intense competition for jobs, commodities and housing, as well as a holistic campaign that entrenches the principles of equity and justice across all spectrums of the society.
Unexpectedly, the obligation to achieve this lies primarily with all tiers of government in South Africa and indeed, regional, continental and global organisations, so as to rid the world of xenophobic attacks, once and for all.
This commentary was first published by Voice of Nigeria at