Nigerian nationals living in SA have partnered with locals to start dialogues aimed at ending the differences between the two countries.
The initiative under the banner Nig-SA Unity Forum was officially unveiled in Midrand, Johannesburg, yesterday with both countries apologising for the wrong they have done to each other. Nig-SA Unity Forum, which is made up of pastors, academics, the business community and civil society, plans to run dialogues in townships to help South Africans get a better understanding of the Nigerian community and the other way round. One of the leaders of the forum, Pastor Segun Olanipekun, apologised to South Africans for the wrong that some of his countrymen had done.
“Our apology to South Africans is unequivocal. What some of the members of the South African community have been complaining about – the criminal elements among Nigerians, prostitution, drug peddling, we apologise for that,” Olanipekun. “There is no sane person who will want their children to be introduced to drugs… We want to work with the South African community to make sure that this does not continue.”
Relations between South Africans and Nigerian nationals living in the country reached their worst state when xenophobic attacks began a few weeks ago. Shops owned by foreign nationals were looted and burnt. Shops belonging to locals were not spared either as the violence spread to various parts of Gauteng.
A total of 12 people died in the violence and over 600 were arrested for various crimes. The violence caused serious diplomatic problems for SA as Nigerians retaliated with attacks on some South African businesses based in that country.
The government condemned the attacks and described them as fuelled by criminality. Olanipekun said the dialogues will be conducted in honesty. “We want to be brutally honest, listen to one another so that whatever the South Africa community says we will take it and communicate it to the larger Nigerian community before taking it to government. We feel that this [xenophobic attacks] has happened once, twice and we don’t want it to continue.”
He said the dialogues will also be used to teach South Africans about the role that Nigerians played in the Struggle for liberation in SA. Nigerians will also share their story of how their country has benefited from some of the South African businesses. Some of the issues that will come from the dialogues will be taken to government for intervention.
ACDP leader Rev Kenneth Meshoe, who is part of the forum, told Sowetan the first dialogue should take place within a month.