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Nigeria and South Africa step up security

Cristina Krippahl (Reuters,afp)
September 4, 2019

Under growing international pressure, President Cyril Ramaphosa called the xenophobic attacks "totally unacceptable." But African leaders and citizens do not seem satisfied.

Südafrika fremdenfeindliche Angriffe auf Migranten
Image: AFP/R. Jantilal

South Africa and Nigeria stepped up security on Wednesday after deadly attacks on foreign-owned stores in Johannesburg triggered reprisal assaults on South African businesses in Nigerian cities. In a move to counter mounting tensions between his country and Nigeria, as well as Zimbabwe and Zambia, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa today reiterated his condemnation of the violence.

In a video address broadcast on Tuesday on Twitter, Ramaphosa said attacks on businesses run by "foreign nationals is something totally unacceptable, something that we cannot allow to happen in South Africa." He added that he wanted it "to stop immediately."

South Africa is hosting the World Economic Forum for Africa. Among the heads of state attending is Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who said he was sending a special envoy to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa to secure the "safety of [Nigerian citizens'] lives and property". 

Nigeria earlier summoned South African ambassador to express "displeasure over the treatment of her citizens."

Strong words were also used by African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki to condemn the violence.  But Faki also said he was encouraged "by arrests already made by the South African authorities".

No football, no music

Zambia canceled an international friendly football match which was slated for Lusaka next weekend against South Africa. Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) Secretary General Adrian Kashala said they were acting out of "security concerns."

Nigerian musicians and superstars like Tiwa Savage have vowed not to perform in South Africa.

Five people were killed in the latest surge of xenophobic violence according to the South African authorities. 189 people were arrested. Sporadic violence against foreign-owned stores and enterprises has a long history in South Africa, where many locals blame immigrants for high unemployment. The country is a major destination for economic migrants from neighboring Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Others come from farther away, including South Asia and Nigeria, Africa's most populous country.