Last week, at least 10 houses suspected to belong to foreign drug lords and brothel owners were set alight in Rosettenville, south of Johannesburg, according to irate residents with native South Africans threatening more vicious attacks.
“We are tired of the crime in our area. These Nigerians must take their drugs back to Lagos,” said Charles Ngakula of Pretoria West.
Another native speaking with South African News Agency claimed that the properties destroyed are mostly owned by or occupied by foreigners used to facilitate prostitution and to trade drugs.
On Saturday afternoon, the police fired rubber bullets at a group of about 300 South Africans. At least seven police vehicles were used to block off WF Nkomo Street and a police helicopter was also involved in the operation.
A Nigeria asylum seeker in South Africa, Segun Oluwa, said: “At 8am, people stormed into our house and shouted: ‘All foreigners must leave!’”
The men looted the house and set it on fire afterwards.Michael Olakunle, another Nigerian immigrant and a resident in the same house, said: “We didn’t do anything wrong. We don’t deserve what is happening to us. South Africans must watch out. There are also South Africans in Nigeria and we will do the same to them there.”
Oluwa and his housemates said the police witnessed what was happening, but didn’t do anything about it.
Two half-naked women sat outside another home with the word ‘Dollhouse’ painted on the front wall.
Inside some of the homes that were looted, dirty mattresses covered the floors and packets of condoms were stuffed in drawers.
“There are immigrants who own brothels and sell drugs, but not all foreigners are bad,” said Memory Vilakazi. She is a South African, but was also chased out of her home.
“South Africans wanted to plunder it [my home] because it belongs to a Congolese national. They don’t like it when foreigners own property.”
A South African reporter Mpho Raborife watched as a group of at least 50 people forced their way into a block of flats along WF Nkomo Street, stealing residents’ belongings and demanding that Nigerians leave the country.
The man, who didn’t give his name, said the mob forced their way into his house and stole his TV, laptop and cell phone.
A woman whose house was also vandalised cried hysterically while police looked on.
Some among the angry mob were drinking beer during the raid. At least five police officials looked on as the mob forced its way into the block of flats.
Meanwhile, Chairperson House Committee on Diaspora Affairs, Rita Orji, said she was not going to be part of the “conspiracy of silence”.
According to her, Nigerians in the Diaspora are only dear to the government because of the funds they remit home.
She accused the government of over-protecting the businesses and interests of South Africa to the detriment of Nigeria.
The government, she said, “is not taking a critical look at what Nigerians in Diaspora face in the countries in which they are”.
She urged the Foreign Affairs Ministry to call for a full briefing from the Nigerian Embassy in South Africa “on how many Nigerians were killed and how many houses were burnt and property looted.
“The South African Government should bear in mind that Nigerians know that they have interests, they have businesses here and they have South Africans here.
They should not put their people in jeopardy.”
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim told the committee that though it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to protect the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians abroad, funds were not made available to the ministry until the 2017 budget proposals.
The minister said: “It is estimated that there are up to 15 million Nigerians abroad. It is, therefore, a herculean task for the ministry to provide protection and welfare assistance when no provision was made for that purpose in the missions’ budget.