That’s after days of riots in South Africa targeting foreign-owned businesses.
These attacks against foreigners in South Africa flared up this week, with the attacks breaking out in Johannesburg on Sunday. This saw the destruction of more than 50 shops and business premises mainly owned by Africans from countries in the rest of the continent.
Widespread looting took place as cars and properties were torched. The violence against African nationals may be a reaction to extra competition for jobs and services in the country.
According to the head of corporate affairs at Multichoice, Jabavu Heshu, the South African television group has shut its offices and branches in Nigeria and Zambia following protests at the group’s Lagos and Lusaka offices.
Heshu said in a statement on Wednesday that the branches would remain closed until the situation had stabilized. “We have had to shut branches and offices to safeguard customers and staff until further notices.”
“The on-going violence in South Africa against foreign nationals, is against the spirit of Africa, and counter-productive to the decades of work done by African leaders and well-meaning organisations to unite the continent. We are a proudly African company and although our story began in South Africa, today we represent the African continent in all its diversity through our presence across the region.”Head of corporate affairs at Multichoice, Jabavu Heshu
Meanwhile, in a statement, the MTN Group said that it had closed its stores and service centers in Nigeria until further notice “as a precaution” after four stores in Nigeria were attacked.
The Johannesburg-based company is the continent’s largest mobile phone operator and has more than 60 million subscribers in Nigeria, a country of about 200 million people.
Meaning Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market, with 58 million users in 2018 as it accounts for a third of the South African group’s core profit.
Several of its stores in Johannesburg also remain closed although there were no reported injuries.
“While we remain committed to providing uninterrupted services, the safety and security of our customers, staff, and partners is our primary concern.
As a company, we remain committed to ensuring a peaceful, harmonious and respectful relationship with all our stakeholders across Africa.”MTN Group
On the other hand, Shoprite also shutdown several stores in Nigeria and Zambia following protest action and extensive damage done to its supermarkets.
“(Shoprite) is highly concerned about the acts of xenophobic violence against foreign nationals that sporadically flare up and the resultant rhetoric of intolerance that is leveled against foreigners and the platform this creates for criminals to exploit this.”Shoprite
High rates of unemployment have been a major cause of anti-foreigner attacks which have become a regular occurrence as frustration mounts over. But this is not an excuse for xenophobic attacks.
The latest wave of unrest in South Africa has raised fears of a recurrence of violence from 2015 aimed at foreigners and in which at least seven people were killed. Before that, in 2008 about 60 people were killed in a wave of unrest around the country.
The growing backlash to xenophobic violence meted out on African nationals living in South Africa is not only being felt by shop owners but the Johannesburg stock exchange as well. On the JSE, MTN fell as much as 2% after the company closed its offices in Nigeria following attacks on its premises in three cities.
Different African countries and the African Union have called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to take action as citizens from across the continent voiced their anger on social media, with some threatening retaliation.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday morning while speaking at a Brand SA breakfast meeting in Cape Town, condemned attacks on foreign nationals living in South Africa, saying SA is a ‘home for all“.
Unfortunately, these attacks in South Africa are an embarrassment for President Cyril Ramaphosa as he hosts leaders and delegates from across the continent at the World Economic Forum Africa summit in Cape Town. The violence has also undermined his assurances that the continent’s most industrialized economy is open for business.
Zambian President Edgar Lungu urged citizens on his Twitter account both locally and abroad to remain calm and disengage from acts of violence as they voice out their grievances. “Those preaching hate must stop.”
Additionally, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari summoned the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria to respond to the xenophobic attacks and dispatched a special envoy to South Africa. Also, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, condemned the xenophobic violence in South Africa and called for “further immediate steps to protect the lives of people and their property”.