Another Approach To The South African Attacks By Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu

The destructive attacks in South Africa on Nigerians and
other sub-Saharan Africans are tragic and mindlessly wrong. The assaults sorely
bruise the objective of inter-African harmony. They also put an eraser to the
idyll of progress and domestic tranquility many people saw when gazing at South
Africa. The xenophobia is actually a lethal show of misdirected angry. The
attacks point to deep, underlying ruptures within the South African political
economy that actually have little to with the presence of Nigerian or other
Black Africans in that nation. Nigerians have become scapegoats in a
fundamentally domestic struggle.

The Black populace is roiling because their economic plight
has worsened since the end of apartheid. If prosperity had come to them, they
would not have come to this. The political and economic accommodation between
the traditionally White-controlled economic superstructure and the post-Mandela
Black political elite is under challenge. 
This model of governance has failed
to make adequate provision for the bulk of the Black population. Due to his
unique status, Mandela was able to give the Black population succor and hope
while counseling them patience. That great man is no longer there. Gone with
him is the succor he gave and apparently the patience of the people. South
Africans thus lashed out in frustration. They attacked Nigerians and other
Africans not so much because our people were the cause of their woes. 
attacked our people because they could do so much easier than they could attack
the actual sources of their ire and economic predicament. It is easier to destroy
the wares of the local shopkeeper than to change the political economy. The
former merely requires an eruption of anger; the latter requires sustained
political organization, vision and dedication. Thus, although they want
political economic reform, all they did was to attack non-South Africans who
provided goods and services to them at the neighborhood level. 
While the government of South Africa may be questioned about
its continued adherence to a political economic model that appears to have exceeded
its best-use date, it is completely wrong to say the South African government
had even a hand in instigating the unrest.
Thus, recalling the Nigerian High Commissioner is
inappropriate and counterproductive. Instead of pulling the diplomat, Nigeria
should name a high-level special envoy to visit the nation and engage directly
with President Zuma.  Nigeria should also
send an Interagency Coordinated Action Team (ICAT) to South Africa to
complement enhance efforts to provide consular services, liaison with police
and security and ensure that affected Nigerians 
receive proper restitution.
We should also talk to major South Africa businesses
resident in Nigeria. It would help douse tensions and ill will here if they
announced a plan to contribute to the restitution of affected Nigerians.
Some observers have questioned the swiftness and efficiency
of the South African government’s response to the mayhem. Such is their right
to do so. However, the South African government did not cause the problem. They
had no reason for it.  To blame the government
is to increase tension and confusion, not douse them.
Recall of an envoy is usually prompted by an adverse act by
the host government itself. It is not good practice to recall a High
Commissioner for a tragedy the host government could not have prevented and one
for which its appears to be working in good faith to end.
The recent social upheaval should be likened more to a
natural disaster as the government had no proximate control over its eruption.
To recall our High Commissioner might satisfy our sense of outrage; it would do
little else, however. The move implicitly signals to the South African
government that we blame it for causing the outburst or for being negligent in
the aftermath. Such a move would make it harder to encourage the South African
government to act as we would like toward affected Nigerians. The more we
diminish our presence is the more we diminish the daily pressure on the
government in Pretoria. The more we diminish the pressure is the less we can
positively influence that government’s action. Pulling our envoy decreases not
increases our diplomatic leverage in this particular circumstance.
Also, much of the world and many Nigerians in South Africa
will perceive the move negatively; they will think we are abandoning our
citizens during the height of their travail. 
This might demoralize them to a material degree. The absence of the High
Commissioner for an appreciable period of time will undermine the efficacy of
our diplomatic mission at the moment when that mission should be doing its
utmost for that segment of our Diaspora in South Africa.
A more constructive step would be to designate a
presidential special envoy to liaise directly with President Zuma and
appropriate cabinet-level officials in South Africa.
The official should be a well known statesman preferably
with a prior relationship with President Zuma. 
A former head of state or someone like former Commonwealth Secretary
Anyaoku would be ideal for the position.
This step would underscore Nigeria’s concerns for its
citizens abroad.  It would also signal to
the South Africans that this episode cannot simply be left to fade into memory
as has happened in the past. The envoy would press to ensure that adequate
security is availed the Nigerian community to prevent further incidents this
time of tension. The Envoy would also explore ways the Nigerian community can
be better integrated and accepted in South Africa. Most importantly, he will
press the South African government to improve its ability to ensure such things
do not repeat themselves on such a large scale.
Complementing the efforts of the special envoy would be a
working level Inter-Agency Coordinating Emergency Team (ICAT).
The ICAT would be comprised of police and other security
officers who would liaise with South African counterparts at the operational
level to ensure adequate security for the Nigerian community and that the
authors of violence will be apprehended.
The team would also have a strong consular component.  Nigeria should use this as an opportunity to
reach out to the Nigerian community in South Africa to get a better idea of its
numerical dimensions and the locations where that community is most
concentrated. A warden or communication system should be established within the
community so that people can be quickly apprised of emergency situations or
major events.
A small legal team with experience in comparative criminal
and civil law should be part of the team. On one hand, the lawyers would check
to make sure those arrested are to be prosecuted. The lawyers should also
investigate the proposals for restitution the South African government will
make for affected Nigerians.
To douse tensions here and show goodwill, major firms in the
South African business community here should be encouraged to develop a fund to
restitute affected Nigerians. This fund should be contributed to the Nigerian
In such a circumstances, our policy approach should not be
determined by anger. Our policy should be founded on a wise, dispassionate
assessment of how to best protect our countrymen when they are imperiled.  Recalling our top envoy does nothing to
protect them. We must do better and more than just express anger.
The steps outlined above – Special Envoy, ICAT and South
African Business Restitution Fund  — are
practical actions that can actually help our people and the South African
government. Nigeria and South Africa are the two major sub-Saharan African
economies.  We should attempt to work
cooperatively to the extent possible, even in tense times.  This show of cooperation and assistance
serves our longer-term strategic interests.

We should extend our hand of cooperation because that is in
the best interests of our people in South Africa. If the South Africans rebuff
these or similar overtures, then we can examine the need to call home our High
Commissioner. However, recall should have been the last resort not the first

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