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Dirco assessing damage to Nigeria embassy after xenophobia retaliation attack

The embassy was forced to shut it's doors on Wednesday after protestors targeted the premises.

Policemen shoot canister of tear gas to disperse people during a demonstration and attacks against South African-owned shops in Abuja, on 4 September 2019. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The International Relations Department said that it was working to assess the damage after the South African embassy in the Nigerian city of Lagos came under attack.

The embassy was forced to shut it's doors on Wednesday after protesters targeted the premises.

While the extent of damage was yet to be determined, it's understood that a vehicle was vandalised during the demonstrations.

Some South African businesses operating in Nigeria including MTN have closed until further notice after being attacked.

It is understood the riots were in retaliation to the xenophobic attacks and mass looting in South Africa where scores of shops owned by foreign nationals have been ransacked and looted.

Dirco's Lunga Ngqengelele: "There were some people who attacked the embassy. We are still trying to verify the information in terms of the damage that might have occurred. Fortunately. No one has been injured."

BEEFED UP SECURITY

Nigerian police plan to boost security at embassies and foreign businesses in the country in the wake of violence targeted at South African-owned companies, the police said on Wednesday.

Violence erupted in Nigeria against South African companies in retaliation for attacks on Nigerians and other Africans in South Africa aimed at foreign-owned businesses.

MTN, and Shoprite closed their stores in Nigeria on Wednesday.

NIGERIA BOYCOTTS AFRICA ECONOMIC SUMMIT OVER ANTI-FOREIGN RIOTS

Nigeria said on Wednesday it would boycott an Africa economic summit in Cape Town, intensifying a diplomatic row after a series of deadly attacks on foreigners in South African cities.

The withdrawal of Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo from the World Economic Forum gathering has cast a cloud over initiatives to boost intra-African trade. He was scheduled to address a panel on universal energy access on Thursday.

The rioting has killed at least five people in Johannesburg and Pretoria in recent days, and on Wednesday South African companies MTN and Shoprite closed stores in Nigeria after retaliatory attacks on their premises.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, on a charm offensive to attract $100 billion of new investment, tried to limit fallout from the violence, which has rekindled memories of previous deadly attacks on foreigners that also led to reprisals on South African businesses abroad.

Police have made almost 300 arrests, while people across the continent have protested and voiced their anger on social media.

It is unclear what ignited the latest attacks, which mainly targeted shops owned by African migrants, but unemployment is high and many South Africans feel frustration with limited economic opportunities.

Old wounds between Africa’s two biggest economies have also been reopened.

“Clearly with this climate, he (Osinbajo) and Mr. President have agreed that he should not go,” Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama told a news briefing.

Onyeama had previously summoned South Africa’s envoy to Nigeria and demanded an explanation for “the continued burning and looting of Nigerian shops and premises ... with ineffective police protection”.

Ramaphosa said on Wednesday that South Africans should never take justice into their own hands against people from other countries.

“We need to quell those incidents of unrest,” Ramaphosa said. “South Africa must be a country where everyone feels safe,” Ramaphosa said, also condemning recent incidents in which women had been killed.

Hundreds of mainly female students protesting about violence against women tried to storm the conference centre in Cape Town.

They were pushed back by police who later used stun grenades against demonstrators. Demonstrators held placards including “Women are not sexual objects” and chanted “We want justice” as they banged on conference doors to try to force their way in.

“Women get raped in this country every single day and nothing is happening. The president is sitting there inside having a fancy lunch with all these people trying to sell our country to the world, (while) there is no peace and no justice,” said a student protester from the University of Cape Town, who declined to be identified.

REGIONAL INTEGRATION

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Malawi’s Peter Mutharika also pulled out of the conference, but their governments did not give an official reason for their no-show.

South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation, commenting before Nigeria announced Osinbajo’s withdrawal, said attendance was “satisfactory”.

WEF spokesman Oliver Cann said Kagame and Mutharika had informed conference organisers by Saturday - before the attacks had started - that they could not attend.

Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo told Reuters the attacks were “unfortunate ...in an environment where we are looking forward to regional integration and co-operation.”

He is part of a large Zimbabwean delegation including President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

There are a significant number of Zimbabweans living in South Africa and they, along with Somalians and Nigerians, have formerly borne the brunt of attacks on foreigners.

Immigration to South Africa from Africa and parts of southeast Asia picked up in the early 1990s, spurred by the end of apartheid and the economic boom that followed.

But in recent years, attacks against foreign-owned businesses have become a regular occurrence as frustration has increased over mounting unemployment, currently at a decade high around 29%.

Some 60 people were killed in attacks directed at foreigners in 2008 and at least seven more in 2015.

Hundreds of University of Zambia students dressed mostly in black and chanting “No Violence” protested outside the South African High Commission on Wednesday. Zambia criticised them for burning a billboard.

On Tuesday, the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) called off the country’s friendly soccer international against South Africa in Lusaka on Saturday, citing “prevailing security concerns in South Africa”.

Additional reporting by Reuters.