LAGOS – A Senior Research Fellow, Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos, Sharkdam Wapmuk, has suggested ways to end the Afrophobia and xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other foreigners in South Africa.
Speaking exclusively with The Independent at the weekend, Wapmuk said that the reactions of Nigerians to the Afrophobic/xenophobic attacks in South Africa have been varied but unanimous in condemning the attacks.
He suggested that a major approach to the crisis is that the All Progressives Congress (APC) should engage the African National Congress (ANC) at the level of ruling to ruling political parties with major stakes in their countries to find practical and sustainable solutions to violent conflicts and counter-violence leading to killings and destruction of business assets. The international relations expert said that the ANC and APC, by virtue of being majority political parties currently governing at this time, are in positions to better influence public policies in their countries.
Wapmuk, who noted that with APC and ANC engaging each other, the two ruling parties would be addressing the challenges that often manifest in xenophobic attacks of foreigners and their businesses, adding that “Both Nigeria and South Africa are seeking foreign direct investments (FDIs) with a view to creating employment for the growing number of unemployed youth in their countries.”
He stressed that the two countries cannot afford to allow the killings of foreigners, destruction of businesses and other negative vices that will serve as disincentives for FDIs, and suggested that: “The Nigerian and South African governments should also explore the option of putting a structure in place for the ruling parties to meet from time to time to discuss and exchange views on how to strengthen public policy to serve the common good.”
Such interaction, in addition to engaging the civil society organisations in Track II Diplomacy, he said, offers some advantages.
First, he said, it will send a strong message to the citizens of both countries that they are pursuing closer and mutually-beneficial relationship; two, it will provide a veritable platform for discussing issues of mutual interest – migration, investments, employment, crimes and justice systems, among others; and three, it could serve as a platform for early warning, conflict resolution and peace building.
It is not the first time that the problem of Afrophobia/ Xenophobia in South Africa and reactions in Nigeria is happening, but a future repeat of history can be avoided, the time to act is now, he said.
He noted that while diplomatic options and the implications were being rationally considered by the Nigerian government, which culminated in first sending of an envoy, and later recall of the Nigerian High Commissioner and opting out of the World Economic Forum (WEF) holding in Cape Town, South Africa, the ruling party in Nigeria proposed other options.
Reacting to position of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) leader, Adams Oshiomhole, that the Nigerian government should nationalise (completely takeover of businesses) about 120 owned by South Africans in Nigeria, Wapmuk said that “The reality is that while these businesses, including MTN, Shoprite, Multichoice/M-Net, Palms Mall Shopping Centre, among others, are South African multinationals and brands, their subsidiaries in Nigeria are also owned by Nigerians and employees are mostly Nigerians. Therefore, nationalisation of these subsidiaries will amount to take-over of businesses owned by Nigerians as well.”
He lamented that since the retaliatory attacks on some South African business in Lagos and Oyo states, Nigerians who have invested in these companies are counting their losses, adding that others directly affected are workers in these companies, most of whom are Nigerians and definitely insurance companies will have to cover the losses depending on the level of insurability.
While the problem Afrophobia/Xenophobia is rooted in South Africa’s history of apartheid and racism, he said that there is also the dimension of acute failure of post-independence leadership to address problems of wealth redistribution concentrated in the hands of the minority Whites against Blacks, and to create mass education and employment.
Blaming some politicians for having exploited the political space to misdirect attention away from poor performance and mass corruption in government., Wapmuk noted that South African politicians courted danger by making populist migration policies part of their elections campaigns.
He stated that while the Democratic Alliance (DA) harped on immigration policy during its campaigns, the African National Congress (ANC) also promised to clamp down on illegal migrants who set up spaza shops in townships.
Wapmuk noted that apart from the ANC’s position, in 2017, Johannesburg’s DA mayor, Herman Mashaba, also made the same position in 2017.
The international relations expert said that some politicians and even traditional rulers have made very strong statements justifying that other black Africans were responsible for unemployment and limited opportunities in South Africa.