How can they be so ungrateful to a country like Nigeria, with all we contributed; socially, morally, financially to save them from whites who took over their country and turn them to slaves?
We Have Lost All We Laboured For – Nigerians attacked in South Africa
Steve Edward’s voice shook terribly, laden with anger and frustration as he relived how he escaped being killed by a South African mob last Saturday in Pretoria West.
“The men came in with machetes and other weapons and started making some arrogant noises. They first collected our money and goods. After then, they set our house on fire. They were happy,” he said. “We called on the police and some people to help us. But when they arrived, they joined our attackers in assaulting us.”
Edward, an indigene of Ondo State (Nigeria), had only lived in South Africa for three years when he witnessed the horrible incident.
He said, “The people we called on to help us also joined our attackers in looting us. They told us that we were dating their women and taking their jobs.
“They also accused us of selling drugs. But I’ve never sold drugs in my life. I’m a forklift operator at an automobile company here in the city. I’ve been working here since 2014 when I arrived in this country.”
Anti-immigrant violence reared its head again in recent weeks in Pretoria West when properties belonging to Nigerians and other Africans were torched by some South Africans who claimed that foreigners were taking over their jobs and dating their women.
The attacks in Pretoria West came just some days after residents in Rosetenville, a suburb in Johannesburg, reportedly burnt properties belonging to Nigerians and other foreigners for allegedly being used for drug dealing and human trafficking. Cars, houses and other items were destroyed in the attacks.
Since last Saturday’s attacks, Edward told our correspondent on the telephone that he had since been living in the street.
He said, “I’m now living in the street since they burnt down the house I lived in. We can’t sleep with our eyes closed because they can attack anytime. We can’t even go to any church to sleep in because they can come there. Nowhere is safe for us.
“My company has also sacked me. I think those guys went to the company and warned them to sack all Nigerians and other foreigners. They don’t want to see any Nigerian work in their country.
“Meanwhile, they are lazy and that’s the truth. That’s why their women follow Nigerians. They’re just jealous of our success. They don’t work, yet they don’t want us who are working to do so. What kind of life is this? They have taken everything I owned. I have lost all.”
Edward explained that he started having a premonition that the attacks would take place someday as “South African men hate us.”
He added, “They have always sought to attack us. Another incident that frequently happens is this: When we go to the bank to withdraw money, the tellers secretly take our pictures and send them to the police. I don’t know what they tell their police.
“But what I know that has happened to many Nigerians is that by the time we are leaving the bank, the police would have been waiting for us. They would collect our money, injure us, then drop us in an unknown location. They would tell us, ‘Go back to your country, we don’t want you here.’”
Having experienced the latest attacks, Edward told Punch that he would love to return to Nigeria to start a new life.
“I want to come back home and start a new life or what is the essence of all the three years I’ve worked here?” he asked.
Another Nigerian who lost all his properties to the recent attacks is Mr. Jaiyeola Balogun, the co-owner of Simon Auto Mechanic Workshop located on 442 Christoffel Street, Pretoria West.
When the hoodlums came to his workshop — containing 29 cars, equipment and other belongings — around 4am on Sunday, February 5, 2017, to burn it down, he would later realise he had lost over R7 million (N168m).
“I have lost all,” he said bitterly.
Balogun had owned the workshop since 2009 in South Africa, but in the twinkle of an eye, all his investments were gone.
He said, “I lost 29 cars in the attacks. They burnt everything down. My passport and that of my daughter were also in the workshop. I lost over R7 million (N168m). I’m down now as I’m talking to you. It’s like the world has collapsed on me.
“They stole my goods and burnt down my house. My family is in Nigeria, but my last daughter is schooling here in South Africa. They don’t like us Nigerians. Xenophobic attacks had never taken place here in Pretoria West, but they occurred this time around.
“I’ve been doing this job since 2009. I’d love to return to Nigeria. I’d like to come back home. I mean, all the things I’ve worked for over the years have all gone. But if I want to come back to Nigeria, I would need a passport, which has been burnt. Why do I need to keep staying in a hostile country?
“They cook up all manner of stories to paint Nigerians black. They tell these stories to justify their evil acts. For instance, when they say Nigerians sell drugs in their country, are they saying the police don’t know where they sell the drugs? They know.
“Let them go and arrest those who sell drugs, but they shouldn’t be attacking those of us who are doing legitimate businesses. I do handwork and I’ve never dealt in drugs all my life. It is saddening I have lost all my investments.”
Uchechi Okon was about embarking on a six-hour journey from Pretoria.
“Right now, I’m relocating out of here to another place which is six hours drive from here. I quickly came to the market to buy some things. I have lost many things as they burnt the house I was living, so I need to buy some essentials before embarking on the trip,” he said.
Okon, who once owned a boutique on Rosazitta Street, Pretoria West, said the attacks lasted for about eight hours.
He said, “It all happened quickly. The mob came, saying they were looking for Nigerians selling drugs. I was sleeping. The next thing I would hear was loud banging on the gate.
“They eventually forced the gate open. We ran to the back of the premises to hide. By then, they had broken the door down and came into the compound. They said they were looking for the Nigerians that lived there, but my white landlady was shouting back that there was no Nigerian living there.
“They came with all kinds of weapons — knives, rods and so on. I heard later that they shot people in similar attacks, but I couldn’t see if they had guns. I was peeping through the window. It happened between 8.30am and 4pm. They went from house to house.
“When they didn’t see us, they stole all our properties and burnt my apartment with my clothes. Right now, I don’t have a passport. I don’t know whether they stole it or it got burnt down with the rest of my clothes and other belongings. I am now living in my car. The only clothes I have are the ones on my back.”
Mrs. Annemarie Van Zir, 68, the owner of the building where Okon and other Africans lived in, said it was unfortunate that Africans were being attacked by fellow Africans.
“They robbed us of our money and other belongings before burning down the building,” she said, adding, “I think the attacks are xenophobic. Even though I was born and bred in South Africa, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t say the truth. It’s quite unfortunate what’s happening here.”
Being a South African, one would think Van Zir’s building would not have been torched by the mob.
But she said, “They burnt my house probably because there were Nigerians and other Africans living in it. They just don’t want to see Nigerians. The hoodlums usually narrate the usual ‘they took our jobs and women’ story anytime they attack Nigerians.
“They said Nigerians had turned their women to prostitutes, but that’s not the issue. The government here is not doing enough to empower women and some of them are also being chased out of the home by their parents.
“Guess where they go? Of course, they would go to Nigerians and others who take care of them well. During the recent attacks, the police came, but did nothing. They also enrich themselves with other people’s wealth.
“The police watched as they set my house on fire in broad daylight and now everything is down. Well, I’m still waiting for the government’s response in terms of compensation, but I hope I don’t wait in vain.”
Last Saturday’s attacks have also forced Musibau Alade to leave Pretoria West and now living in his uncle’s house. But still, he has not been able to sleep with his two eyes closed.
“When they came last Saturday to attack us, they burnt down the house I was living. Now, we learnt that they had planned other attacks this week. Right now, I’ve gone to my uncle’s house, but for some other Nigerians that I know, they are sleeping in the streets. It’s unfortunate what’s happening to us,” he said.