The second in the series of AfriHeritage Policy Dialogue recently held at the Institution’s Corporate Headquarters, Enugu. Proficiently moderated by Professor Ufo Okeke-Uzodike, Executive Director of AfriHeritage, the Dialogue featured two distinguished scholars well-reputed for their deep insights regarding global development issues particularly in Southern Africa – Dr. Maxwell Ngene of the Department of Mass Communications, Renaissance University and Dr. Victor Onyebueke of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Nigeria Nsukka.
From historical antecedents, the Dialogue traced the issue of social and economic segregation in South Africa from the years of Apartheid to the period between 2008 and 2019 when xenophobic attacks took centre stage in the country. It took a critical look on the original nature of xenophobia and the character of the recent attacks in South Africa, seeking to identify distinct patterns in the attacks making them more ‘Afrophobic’ than purely xenophobic. It further analyzed the response of the Nigerian authorities to the incident as well as its immediate and long term impact on trade and diplomatic relations between the two countries.
On the remote and immediate causes of the recurrent xenophobic attacks, the Dialogue identified a political undertone to the attacks stemming from a possible disillusionment on the part of South African citizens apparently dissatisfied with democracy dividends in their country and seeking to assuage their frustrations by profiling foreigners as economic parasites denying them their perceived entitlements. The resurgence of the attacks was also traced to the insincere and inflammatory remarks which political leaders in South Africa may have carelessly made in public spaces, unwittingly promoting anti-African sentiments soon resulting in physical attacks on fellow Africans.
In proffering solutions to the issue, the Dialogue emphasized on the need for more robust, factual and conflict-sensitive media advocacy to be jointly carried out by a consortium of Nigerian and South African journalists and opinion leaders, in order to propagate the correct narrative regarding Nigeria-South Africa relations and enlighten the ordinary citizens on the need for peaceful co-existence. It stressed that the advocacy should be preceded by joint media and information literacy trainings to be facilitated by the diplomatic missions of both countries.
A review of the terms and conditions of subsisting bilateral and diplomatic relations between both countries was also recommended by the Dialogue, with a view to identifying the strengths and weaknesses of existing relationships and making amends where necessary. Particularly, the issue of unwarranted visa restrictions by the South African authorities against Nigerians was frowned at by the Dialogue. It commended the efforts of leaders of both countries to calm frayed nerves after the attacks, but insisted that ceremonial measures would be grossly ineffective in forestalling a future reoccurrence of the incidents. It recommended that concrete actions must be taken by both countries and strong punitive measures adopted to check the tendencies of those who might dare to trigger such violence again in the future.