Nigerian House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila has rejected the claims by South African Foreign Affairs minister Naledi Pandor that many Nigerians in South Africa indulge in criminal acts.
Many Nigerians work in South Africa, but they are sometimes stereotyped as criminals. Pandor also reiterated that belief in an interview with eNCA on Thursday.
“The belief that our people have in reality that there are many persons from Nigeria who are dealing drugs in our country, who are harming our young people,” Pandor said adding that “I believe that Nigeria nationals are involved in human trafficking and other abuse of our practices.”
In a reaction to these claims, the Speaker said South Africa was trying to “change the true narrative” of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa as a conflict between “gangs fighting for turf.”
“Unless it is the position of the South African Government that all Nigerians living in South Africa are gangsters and criminals, we demand that they reject these claims without equivocation,” Gbajabiamila said.
Pandor had earlier described the anti-migrants sentiments as Afrophobia – fear or dislike of Africans, but the South Africa’s police minister Bheki Cele said that attacks were acts of “criminality” and not xenophobic.
South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa shared another sentiment. He acknowledged that there were anti-foreigner sentiments in the country.
There are fewer than four million migrants in South Africa, a nation of more than 50 million. South Africa’s statistics office put the figure of Nigerians living in the country at 30, 314, representing 2.1% of the total figure of migrants in the country as at 2016. That figure increased from 26, 341 in 2011.