The Nigeria Union in South Africa says the recent comments by that country`s Deputy Police Minister insinuating an influx of foreigners in Johannesburg are unfortunate.
The Minister, Bongani Mkongi, was quoted to have said: “How can a city in South Africa be 80 per cent foreign national? That is dangerous. South Africans have surrendered their own city to the foreigners.”
He made the comments while reacting to the problem of hijacked buildings in Johannesburg.
But Mr Ikechukwu Anyene, the President of the union, told the Nigerian Pilot on telephone from Pretoria, South Africa, on Monday that such comments could cause another round of xenophobic attacks.
He said though the minister did not specify the particular foreign nationals, Nigerians had suffered from previous attacks in that country.
“ It is unfortunate that a minister and indeed a top government official could make such utterances, especially in this period of heightened tension, a time we have been having challenges caused by xenophobic attack.
“ These are the kind of utterances that goad people to burn properties.
“ We, however, believe that this is not the official position of the South African government. We believe that it is his personal opinion,” he said.
Anyene urged the Federal Government to engage its South African counterpart to call its top officials to order and refrain from making such comments.
He also said that the Early Warning Unit (EWU) agreed on by the governments of the two countries had not taken off.
Anyene said an agreement to set up the unit was reached during the visit of Nigeria`s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, to South Africa in February.
In its reaction, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) condemned the comments made by Mkongi.
“As a figure of authority in the Department of Police – and by extension across society – the Deputy Minister is expected to exercise a great deal of circumspection in his public utterances,” the commission said in a statement in Pretoria,’’ it said.
The commission said the Department of Police was expected to play a leading role in combating and preventing xenophobia as well as the effective detection thereof‚ and in crime prevention and law enforcement.
“Therefore‚ the deputy minister was expected not to utter inflammatory statements,” the commission added.