The Nigerian Union SA (Nusa) has warned that a planned march to the Nigerian embassy in Pretoria next week to protest against crime has strong xenophobic overtones and could spark violence.
A pamphlet for the protest, planned by an organization called Action for Change (AFC), reads: #SaveOurChildren their lives matter too. No to GBV. No to human trafficking. We can’t be silenced anymore. We plead to all South Africans to come and join us as we do a demonstration protest on the Nigerian Embassy.”
Nusa president Adetola Olubajo said he had engaged with the organizers and told them his organization would even join the march if it was purely against crime. But he believes there are xenophobic reasons behind the march because only Nigerians are being targeted.
“We support fighting crime. But then I see the march only targets one set of people. You can’t paint everyone with the same brush. I don’t think [protesters] are genuine in saying they are against crime if they only march against Nigerians.”
Olubajo said he believed the march had the potential to become politicised and could be used to win votes ahead of elections.
“We’ve issued a warning to Nigerians to give the protesters space — there is potential some miscreants could use the march as an excuse to attack,” he said.
South African Human Rights Commission chair Bongani Majola said that though the right to protest was entrenched in the constitution, “a march only against Nigerians when many South Africans themselves and many other nationals are implicated in crime is discrimination and xenophobic”.
“There is no statistical evidence that Nigerians are the only ones involved in crime. It is not clear why the organisers want to single them out and why they also believe that all Nigerians commit crime.”
National police spokesperson Capt Mavela Masondo said the police had not received notice of the protest.
We support fighting crime. But then I see the march only targets one set of people. I don’t think [protesters] are genuine in saying they are against crime if they only march against Nigerians Adetola Olubajo, above Nigerian Union SA president.
The Nigerian embassy did not respond to questions.
Online pamphlets for the march are circulating on social media, including on the fake Twitter account @uLerato_pillay. The fictional character plays the role of a bitter South African sick of crime and corruption and the message is distinctly xenophobic. One tweets reads: “Time for Nigerian criminals to vacate our cities.” It was retweeted more than 2,300 times and got more than 5,700 likes.
US think-tank Digital Forensic Research Lab has been monitoring hashtags that spread xenophobic sentiments to investigate the sources of propaganda.
On July 3 it put out a statement on the @uLerato_pillay account and linked it to the South African First (SAF) political party. SAF promotes the closing of SA’s borders and the removal of foreign nationals from the country. The party has denied the relationship.
AFC founding member Moses Mogali said the group had formed in 2018.
“My friends and I did some research and we found that most foreigners use illegal means to get wealthy,” Mogali said.
“We are not xenophobic, we just want people who come to the country to contribute positively.”
Errol Jacobs, of the Khoisan Revolution Party’s 1st Nation organisation, said they were joining the march, which he said was not against Nigerians, but against “a bad element in the Nigerian community”.
He said Nigerian syndicates were targeting coloured communities.
“We call for Nigerian nationals and illegals to be checked and removed if they are here illegally.
“The Khoisan are rising up.”
Jacobs said the march was not xenophobic. “We have no intent to stir up problems; not all Nigerians are bad.”