African Press Association

EXCLUSIVE: Nigerians’ frantic efforts to repair soiled image


JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – NIGERIANS living in South Africa are “sorry” to the parents of girls who have been drugged and abused by their fellow countrymen in the wake of the skirmishes in Rosettenville, northern Johannesburg, and have put in motion initiatives to encourage fellow nationals to desist from crime.

In an exclusive interview, All Nigerian Nationals in Diaspora’s (ANNIDA’s) South Africa Chapter President, Chief Emeka Johnson, said the Nigerian community in the country, precisely the ones in Johannesburg and Pretoria have embarked on crime and anti-drug awareness campaigns.

“We have been holding workshops and seminars, but have since intensified such campaigns in both Johannesburg and Pretoria with the sole purpose to educate our members not to get involved in any crime,” said Johnson.

“Since last year, we have undertaken campaigns to dissuade compatriots from involvement in drugs and prostitution. We have gone on to hold symposiums. One should not come to someone else’s country and perpetrate crime, especially of that nature.”

“We must strive to live harmoniously with our host communities. We must be conscious of the history of our host country and not add insult to injury the country has suffered from its apartheid past,” Johnson added.

He said his organisation “abhorred” migrants that were involved in crime, although he pointed out Nigerians were tarred with the same brush and wrongfully blamed for the problems of drugs and prostitution.

The prevalence of these sparked the skirmishes in Rosettenville where several houses have been burnt and property worth thousands of Rands destroyed and looted by angry community.

“From our deliberations and internal investigations, we discovered that drug peddling has been a huge business in South Africa being perpetrated by different races and nationalities in this country. It was even a megamillion-Rand business before 1994 when South Africa experienced a surge in foreign nationals into the country,” alleged Johnson.

“Crime doesn’t know boundaries. Prior to democracy, there has been always cases of drugs in South Africa, so, why point at Nigerians only? I would encourage the law enforcement agents to tackle crime without looking at offenders’ nationality. Whether one is Nigerian, South African or European, they must be arrested and prosecuted,” he said.

He claimed some properties in Rosettenville, which housed the prostitutes and drug peddlers, were owned by South Africans working with different nationalities lured into such “dirty” businesses.

Johnson argued authorities and the public were only targeting “riff raff” instead of the major beneficiaries from the illicit drug business.

“The riff raff are only the last rank of the trade. The cartels and tycoons that benefit are not attacked. They live in mansions in posh suburbs.”

Johannesburg-based criminologist, Solomon Chikohwero, admitted while crime was prevalent in Rosettenville the issue the matter was blown out of proportion to score political mileage ahead of the 2019 elections.

“This is a political tussle. Two elephants (African National Congress and Democratic Alliance) are fighting a political game. In the process, it is the grass that suffers, the grass being the ordinary people,” said Chikohwero.

“This hullabaloo in Rosettenville is nothing but about the forthcoming elections between the two parties seeking to control the country’s economic hub,” he said.

“On one hand, ANC pretends to care about foreign nationals yet in their blueprint document, they are stealing the rights of migrants. DA knows the game very well, and is capitalising on ANC’s weak points to score cheap points by sending irrelevant Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department to arrest foreign nationals,” said Chikohwero.

“How can you have a (Johannesburg) mayor, searching people and demanding their documents? It’s not his job. If he is interested in that, he must give up his position and seek recruitment into the force,” Chikohwero said.

When this news crew visited the scene of the skirmishes the silence in the burnt houses was in stark contrast to the deafening noise neighbours said they endured for years.

In Lawn Street, Clement Dube (South African national), alleged he cheated death during a confrontation with a suspected drug-lord over the latter’s activities next door.

“I was stabbed on my right hand,” he said exposing a scar under his sleeve.

“There used to be lots of noise. I’m a Christian with Jehovah’s Witness (Watch Tower), but I was no longer going to worship at night fearing these thugs, who normally smoke dagga (cannabis) just by my house. Some will be busy doing sex inside while others drinking with girls screaming endlessly,” said Dube.

“These drug lords were very clever in that they had other premises elsewhere far from Rosettenville. They would lure young girls aged 14-to-18 to their house. They would then invite their rich countrymen, mainly Nigerians to come and enjoy sex with drugged and hapless girls.”

He alleged pleas to police fell on deaf ears as they would arrive on the scene but not make arrests.

Yamisa Mda (21) said the house next door to where her family lives would be calm by the day but chaotic in the evening.

“Immediately after 7:00pm (19:00), we would see many young girls entering in a sober state but few minutes later will be crisscrossing roads and climbing on trees. Others would be screaming. We were scared of going out.”

She said peace had been restored after the properties were burnt.

“We are not xenophobic but these Nigerians have been a nuisance. They did not have respect for other people. They are rough, cruel and dangerous,” she said.

Meanwhile, Gauteng Provincial Police spokesman, Lieutenant Kay Makhubela, told CAJ News 18 suspected Nigerian drug dealers were recently prosecuted on various crimes.

– CAJ News