The Nigerian government says it will take further steps to ensure the safety and protection of its citizens in South Africa. The position comes in the wake of a round of xenophobic attacks that hit Johannesburg, Pretoria and other cities in the country.
South African police on Monday arrested dozens of people following widespread looting and protests in the transport industry linked to a wave of anti-foreigner sentiment.
The unrest started on Sunday when an old building in the CBD caught fire and collapsed, killing at least three people.
It then spread to two eastern suburbs and to the capital Pretoria, where local media reported shops burning in the Marabastad – a central business area largely populated by economic migrants.
The Nigerian government described the incidents as unacceptable adding: ‘Enough is enough. Nigeria will take definitive measures to ensure the safety and protection of its citizens.’
Zambia also expressed concern and asked all of its citizens using the route to and from South Africa to suspend their trips until further notice. A group of concerned citizens in Zambia plans to protest at the South African Embassy in the capital Lusaka. The group said the march was “to show displeasure to the South African government for the horrific conduct exhibited by their citizens and complacent approach their government has taken. The march planned for September 4 it added: “is in no ways intended to cause any harm but just to communicate our concerns and observations,” the statement added.
Zimbabwe’s Cross Borders Transportation Association also warned that it could halt all South African cross border transport over the situation.
However, police say the violence isn’t related to xenophobia.
“For me, it’s pure criminality, people looting and all that, and using that as xenophobia,” Bheki Cele, South African Police Minister said. “But for now, there is nothing that has sparked any form of conflict between South Africans and foreign nationals. We’re dealing with criminality rather than xenophobia at the present moment.”
Police arrested 41 people for the violence in Johannesburg, while 8 others were arrested in Tembisa township, east of Johannesburg, and one person arrested in the capital, Pretoria, police said.
Such violence breaks out sporadically in South Africa, where many nationals blame foreigners for high unemployment, particularly in manual labor.
Monday’s violence followed similar incidents in Pretoria last week, in which protests led by taxi drivers saw several foreign-owned shops looted and torched.