For more than one week now, South Africa, the former apartheid enclave popularly called the Rainbow Nation, has been caught in an orgy of violence. On a daily basis, terror has been unleashed on the foreign nationals in the country, particularly Nigerians. The social media are awash with video clips of defenseless individuals being beaten or burnt to death by petrol, matches and weapons-wielding South Africans youths.
On account of the conflicting reports as to the cause of the latest unrest and why the South Africans are targeting foreign nationals in the country, our correspondent got across to some Nigerians resident in South Africa and they narrated their horrible experiences in different interviews.
Genesis of the crisis
One of the Nigerian victims, Julius Osas, a resident of Sunnyside in Pretoria, close to the place where the current xenophobic attacks was triggered, said he has lived in South Africa for 10 years.
Narrating how it all began, he said: “Someone was actually killed, and where it happened is not far from where I stay. The problem began in Pretoria Central Business District (CBD). It was an issue between some South African taxi drivers and some Tanzanian street urchins who were peddling drug.
“They (Tanzanians) peddle a drug called Nyaope. That is the local name. It is a cheap but very dangerous drug. Street boys use the drug. They use syringe and needle to draw some blood from their body. Then they would mix Nyaope with the blood they have drawn out and inject it back into their body. I have not used it before, but I know it is very dangerous.
“When they have injected the drug back into their system and it starts working, they start to behave in a certain way. When they talk to you, they talk so slowly that they look like imbeciles. Even when they are on their feet, they will be sleeping.
“The drug is cheap and Tanzanian guys are the peddlers. I don’t know where or how it is manufactured, but it is Tanzanians who deal in the drug. It has nothing to do with Nigerians. I have been here in South Africa for 10 years and I know it is Tanzanians that deal in that type of drug.
“They sell the stuff at Brown Street, a very popular street in Pretoria CBD. That is where they usually converge. We call them Nyaope Boys. They sell mostly to South African urchins and street boys. And those urchins, when they jam you on the road at night, they rob and maul you. They are very dangerous, so people don’t want to come across them at night.
“Now, on that fateful Tuesday afternoon on August 27, some South African taxi drivers challenged some of the Tanzanian drug peddlers on Brown Street. Apparently, they had been having issues. The place is close to the taxi drivers’ mini park. There were also some South African policemen around when the trouble began.
“In no time, the quarrel between the Tanzanian drug peddlers and the taxi drivers escalated into a scuffle while the policemen at the spot tried to calm the situation. Suddenly, one of the Nyaope Boys grabbed the service pistol of one of the policemen and shot one of the taxi drivers dead. The drug peddlers escaped from the scene and the mob that gathered started shouting that they were Nigerians. That was the genesis of the whole problem.
“That afternoon, the chaos turned into violence. The aggrieved taxi drivers hijacked some trucks, blocked the road with them and started fighting all the foreigners they came across. That was the genesis of the latest attacks.”
Osas said they had thought that the crisis had ended as the day drew to an end. Surprisingly, the crisis continued the following morning as South Africans insisted that the culprits were Nigerians and vowed to go round killing Nigerians and other foreigners and destroying their shops and property.
He said: “The next day, some jobless South African youths hijacked the protest from the taxi drivers. They started looting, burning and vandalizing shops owned by foreigners.
“Later, members of the South African Police Force (SAPF) were drafted to calm the situation, but by then, it had got out of hand.
“The taxi drivers said they did not loot any shop; that the looting was the handiwork of hoodlums. They said they were just trying to voice out their anger over the killing of one of their members.
“The next day being Thursday (August 29), they came to Sunnyside ostensibly to attack the drug dealers in Sunnyside. It is not far from where I stay. I saw everything live. A lot of Nigerians and other foreign nationals live there. Here in Sunnyside, we have the highest number of foreign nationals in Pretoria.”