Members of Nigeria’s community in South Africa have raised concerns over renewed anti-immigrant violence, appealing to authorities to intervene before the situation gets out of control.
Nigeria’s presidency on Monday called the South African government to step in to stop what it said were “xenophobic attacks” following recent reports of violence against Nigerians and other nationals in the capital, Pretoria.
The Nigerian Union South Africa (NUSA) on Tuesday confirmed that Nigerian homes and businesses in Pretoria West had been attacked in several late-night incidents in recent days.
“Homes and shops of Nigerians were targeted and looted in the events of past few days,” Emeka Ezinteje Collins, national public relations officer of NUSA, told Al Jazeera, citing at least 10 such attacks.
He added: “Our people and other foreigners are apparently living in fear of the unknown as the hoodlums have promised” more attacks from Friday, when a group called the “Mamelodi concerned residents” is reportedly planning to hold a march against foreign nationals.
NUSA also said that some of its members had received threatening phone calls asking for payment to protect their houses and businesses.
“We have also received reports from our members of receiving threatening anonymous calls requesting that money be paid to avert destruction of their properties,” Collins said.
“We implore the South African and Nigerian authorities to intervene early and save the situation before it spills out of hand.”
South African police said on Tuesday at least 20 shops possibly belonging to immigrants were looted in Pretoria overnight, but they could not confirm if the attacks had deliberately targeted foreigners.
“There are allegations that these shops belong to foreign nationals,” police spokeswoman Brigadier Mathapelo Peters told the Reuters news agency.
“It is alleged that the community members are saying that these shops were used for drug dealing, but that is unconfirmed. We will only be able to start a formal investigation once the shop owners come forward.”
Anti-immigrant violence has flared sporadically in South Africa against a background of near-record unemployment, with foreigners being accused of taking jobs from locals and getting involved in crime.