Nigerians living in South Africa this year celebrated their country’s 60th anniversary with a pledge of changing the manner in which they are perceived in their given communities.
The pledge follows a march by protestors under the “PutSouthAfricansFirst banner from Church Square to the Nigerian Embassy on September 23 demanding that Nigerians stop participating in drug trade and human trafficking.
Nigeria got it’s independence from Britain on October 1, 1960.
The pledge was made during a roundtable discussion in Norwood Johannesburg on October 3.
Among others, the discussions were attended by Samuel Udom, the Consular to the Nigerian High Commission and Bongani Mkhwananzi from the Zimbabwean community in Nigeria.
Udom said there have been several false narratives about Nigerians that are driven by malicious elements. Instead, he said any society has undesirable criminal elements and the Nigerian community was no different.
“Criminality knows no nationality,” Udom said.
Mkhwananzi weighed in and said it was high time communities prioritise social inclusion. Instead of being at odds with each other, different nationalities must concentrate on learning each other’s cultures.
“The stereotypes against Nigerians are there; we have criminal and rogue elements in every society including among South Africans themselves. We cannot then paintbrush everyone because of one rogue element,” Mkhwananzi said.
A day before the September 23 march against foreign nationals, Human Rights Watch director, Dewa Mavhinga said: “The march could fuel xenophobic violence and the biggest problem is that when people have xenophobic sentiments and target foreign nationals”.
“Law enforcement has often failed and been unwilling to stop these attacks.”
Apostle Chisom Olusakwe, the founder of Deep Institute Outreach Zone of No Defeat Program and Viva Nation TV said, “As far as Nigerians are concerned, the loudest is on the bad side but there are those among us who are doing positive things”.
He added that the Nigerian community was creating platforms not only to address social ills leveled against Nigerians but one to speak about other current pressing issues such as gender-based violence and femicide and women and child abuse.
Denise Mothiba, a South African citizen, said the role and involvement of the media in such discussions was important as it helps to fulfill its mandate to report on credible information.
“Media should be visible so that it helps in shaping public perceptions and opinions about significant and social issues, and thereby bridging this information gap and put it at the forefront, urging people to do something to change socially,” Mothiba said.