South Africa tightened security on Wednesday (September 4th) after xenophobic attacks that left seven people dead in the Johannesburg area and triggered retaliation against South African businesses in Nigerian cities.
The situation gradually normalized Wednesday in Johannesburg, the main South African city, under heavy police surveillance after three days of riots. Shops have timidly reopened.
Since the beginning of the violence against foreigners, at least seven people have been killed and nearly 300 arrested. Dozens of stores were destroyed and trucks suspected of being driven by foreigners were also burned.
>> Read also: Xenophobic violence kills seven people in South Africa
Anxiety and anger in Nigeria
This outbreak of violence is causing concern and anger in many African countries with large numbers of South African nationals. In Nigeria, calls for boycott and violence against South African retailers have multiplied.
The South African giant MTN, the leader in telecommunications in Africa, announced the closure "until further notice" of all its agencies in Nigeria, its largest market with 190 million inhabitants, after a series of attacks by its stores. Major clashes erupted on Wednesday morning in Abuja, around a South African supermarket sign, despite a strengthening of the security apparatus throughout Nigeria. "We must avenge the death of our fellow citizens in South Africa," said a protester, Joseph Tasha.
Boycott of the World Economic Forum on Africa
To protest against the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, Nigeria has also decided to boycott the World Economic Forum on Africa which opened Wednesday in Cape Town, the parliamentary capital of South Africa.
In Zambia, a thousand students demonstrated their anger at the South African Embassy in Lusaka by waving "No to xenophobia" posters and firing the diplomatic mission's sign. In very strong terms, Zambian President Edgar Lungu called on Pretoria to "end the carnage" before "this xenophobia degenerates into large-scale genocide".
His Zimbabwean counterpart, Emmerson Mnangagwa, "condemned" "all forms of hate-motivated violence", but hailed "the swift response of the South African authorities" to try to restore calm. And Botswana, also a border with South Africa, has called on its fellow citizens on the ground to be "cautious".
"Everyone is welcome in South Africa"
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has again condemned the xenophobic violence that erupted in Johannesburg on Sunday before spreading to the political capital Pretoria and KwaZulu-Natal province. "To attack foreigners is not the right attitude," he repeated. "Everyone is welcome in South Africa," assured the president of the "rainbow nation" dreamed by his mentor, Nelson Mandela.
In the South African township of Alexandra Wednesday, foreign traders made the sad record of the destruction. "I lost everything," said Ashi Ashfaq, a Pakistani whose three of the six stores were burned.
"This is the first time this has happened, before they did not burn stores, they just flew in. When they burn stores, you lose everything."
"Years of impunity"
South Africa, the continent's leading industrial power, is the scene of xenophobic violence, fueled by high unemployment (29%) and poverty. In 2015, seven people were killed during looting of foreign-owned businesses in Johannesburg and Durban. In 2008, xenophobic riots killed 62 people in the country.
According to Amnesty International, this new wave of violence is the result of "years of impunity for xenophobic crimes" perpetrated in recent years in the country.