Xenophobic attacks in South Africa sparks riots in Nigeria and ZambiaSeptember 11, 2019
Violence and looting have taken place in Nigeria and Zambia against South African-owned businesses, after a continuing series of xenophobic attacks and riots in Johannesburg.
The escalating dispute has seen Nigeria recall its ambassador to South Africa, as well as pull out of the World Economic Forum on Africa summit, currently being held in Cape Town.
Witnesses in Nigeria said vandals smashed windows to break into the offices of MTN, a South African telecommunications company, and stole items including laptops.
The Lagos state government also confirmed that two branches of the South African supermarket chain Shoprite were targeted.
Protests have also taken place in Zambia at South Africa’s High Commission – with fires started by an angry group of students.
Footage showed students from the University of Zambia marching towards the South African embassy in Lusaka, the country’s capital.
The backlash began after a flare-up of xenophobic violence against immigrants and foreign businesses in South Africa.
Mobs looted and burned shops, homes and vehicles owned by foreigners. Five people were killed, and at least 189 people suspected of being involved in the violence have been arrested.
The riots against foreign businesses began a day after South African truck drivers started a nationwide strike, protesting against the employment of foreign drivers.
Roads were blocked, and trucks being driven by foreigners were torched by protesters.
South Africa currently has an unemployment rate of 29%, meaning almost seven million people are out of work. In comparison, the UK has an unemployment rate of 3.9% – an estimated 1.3 million people.
Some South Africans have blamed foreign workers for the high levels of unemployment – and others claim they are pushing drugs into the country.
Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president, condemned the violence on Twitter, writing there is “no justification for any South African to attack people from other countries”.
He added: “The attacks on people who run businesses from foreign nationals – it’s something that is totally unacceptable, something that we cannot allow to happen in South Africa… something that is completely against the ethos that we as South Africans espouse.
“The people of our country want to live in harmony. Whatever grievance and concerns people have, we need to handle it in a democratic way.”
Xenophobic attacks have previously been a problem with the African nation. According to Xenowatch, 12 people died in xenophobic-related incidents last year.
Zambian and Nigerian celebrities are boycotting appearances in South Africa in protest.
Afrobeats star Burna Boy, who has worked with the likes of Beyonce, Jorja Smith and Lily Allen, has urged fellow Nigerians to protect and defend themselves.
Nigerian singer Tiwa Savage told her fans online that she was pulling out of a planned South African concert this month, describing the attacks as “the barbaric butchering of my people”.
And the Zambian football association has cancelled an international friendly match against South Africa, due to take place in Lusaka.