After reports of xenophobic attacks against foreign business owners emerged, many Nigerian citizens have fled South Africa in the wake of all the tension.
Early this month, riots in the country targeted several Johannesburg businesses owned by foreigners. According to CNN, Nigerian native Dennis Benson the saw signs that he was in danger as a foreign business owner, days before he decided to flee South Africa.
“I packed my bags and went to stay with a Nigerian friend who lives close to the airport because I knew it was going to get bloody. I have seen other protests,” Benson said. “A supermarket owned by an Ethiopian beside my apartment was looted and destroyed. The rioters even took the fridge with drinks. They were chanting that people should go back to their country.”
Unfortunately, the violence turned deadly, and lead to the fatalities of 10 people, which included two foreigners. CNN reported, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari sent a delegation to South Africa to assess the situation and later announced plans to repatriate 640 citizens from the country. A private airline operator, Air Peace, offered to provide two flights for Nigerians that wanted to return to Nigeria and the first group of 187 rejoiced in their arrival at a Lagos airport on Wednesday. There are plans to evacuate more in the coming weeks as many have been stranded in South Africa due to trouble with paperwork and documentation.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke out against the attacks.
“Government will not allow sporadic lawlessness and violence to disrupt the safety and livelihoods of millions of South Africans and the majority of foreign nationals in our country who are law-abiding and have the right to conduct their lives and businesses in peace,” Ramaphosa said.
Though Benson has to restart his business, he told CNN that he has no regrets for returning to Nigeria.
“South Africa was no fun for me and I have no regrets leaving,” Benson said. “I could not get a decent job, and I was living on the jobs I did for my clients in Nigeria. Now, I don’t have to worry about people attacking me because I am a foreigner.”