JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – IN the wake of intermittent violence against
foreign nationals, particularly Nigerians, for allegedly promoting drug
peddling and human trafficking in South Africa, a group of women married
to men from the West African country have staged an unprecedented protest
against fellow nationals and corrupt police fuelling such activities.
The United Nigerian Wives In South Africa (UNWISA) has also called on
police to take tougher action against culprits amid allegations some
corrupt officers were conniving with crime masterminds.
Dubbed the march against Drugs, Child Prostitution, Human Trafficking,
Women and Child Abuse, the peaceful demonstration went through Yeoville
and Hillbrow, the Johannesburg areas mostly occupied by foreign nationals,
culminating in the handing over of a petition to the Hillbrow Police Station.
The spouses, joined by a handful of men from the All Nigerian Nationals in
Diasporas-South Africa (ANNIDSA), also protested police’s reluctance in
arresting known criminals.
Protesters demanded for the protection of whistleblowers from victimisation.
Clad in T-shirts with messages as, “Hands-off Our Sisters and Daughters”,
the women said they were disillusioned over the high crime rate involving
drugs, human trafficking, child and women abuse by criminals, some of them
known, reportedly working in cahoots with police who were benefitting
financially from inducement.
Speaking to CAJ News Africa, chairperson of UNWISA, Thelma Okoro, said
police must work with communities to avoid a recurrence of incidents that
saw residents took the law to their own hands.
These have been prevalent in the economic powerhouse, Gauteng in recent
months. Enraged locals have burnt properties said to be used by culprits
for illegal activities.
A Nigerian national was killed in violent protests in Rosettenville. More
than 100 people were arrested for various crimes including damage to
property and suspected drug dealing.
This sparked a diplomatic tiff between Nigeria and South Africa after the
former claimed over 200 of its citizens had been killed over the past two
years in xenophobic violence.
In retaliation, Nigerians destroyed property belonging to South
African-headquartered mobile operator MTN in Abuja. Threats were made to
other like firms.
“We would like to remind law enforcers that if they work with
communities, no violent protests can ever happen. Such protests always
occur because police do not cooperate with aggrieved members of the
public,” said Okoro.
Okoro, a South African married to a Nigerian for 15 years, said while a
majority of those accused were Nigerians, she argued the suspected drug
lords were working with locals, including police.
“I do not condone crime, whether committed by a South African or Nigerian.
Criminals must be arrested and prosecuted,” she said.
Okoro added: “As wives of Nigerians, we would like to urge those Nigerian
men involved in drugs, child prostitution, human trafficking, women and
child abuse and all vices to desist from crime. Similarly, locals also
dealing in similar crimes must be severely dealt with.”
She bemoaned the stereotyping of Nigerians, by locals and other nationals,
as drug dealers.
Okoro said some law enforcement agents were equally to blame for the
“I know of a woman who reported these drug lords in Rosettenville but
simply because some police officers were receiving kickbacks, they
(police) ignored the woman’s and residents’ pleas resulting in violent
protests that destroyed property,” she said.
In a separate interview, a Nigerian woman, Chioma Okeke, bemoaned lack of
police cooperation when communities reported crime.
“Some police officers do not take heed since they are given bribes by
criminals,” Okeke said.
“These criminals, especially drug lords, have money. So, whenever we
report them to police, nothing happens against them. Shockingly, police
always reveal names of people who would have reported them exposing such
whistle-blowers to danger,” Okeke said.
“That is the reason why many communities do not trust the police. There is
backbiting by the same police who betray the complainant to criminals
hence taking law into own hands. Police must always act professionally and
practice confidentiality,” Okeke said.
Iheanacho Obafemi, a Nigerian entrepreneur in Bramley, Johannesburg
decried the stereotype that Nigerians were involved in crime.
“Not all Nigerians are criminals, just like not all South Africans are
clean. People from all walks must fight and denounce crime in the
strongest possible terms,” Obafemi said.
He pointed out there were some entrepreneurs from Nigeria who were
complementing South African government by creating jobs.
“My appeal to locals and foreigners is to work together to enhance
economic growth and skills development,” Obafemi appealed.
Gauteng Provincial police spokesperson, Lieutenant Kay Makhubela, welcomed
the stance by the women.
“What Nigerian wives did is very much commendable. They (Nigerian wives)
did not engage in violent protests. Instead, they reminded both police and
government that crime is only won through partnerships with society or
members of the public,” he said.
Makhubela pledged police would enhance cooperation with the public to weed
out criminals from the society.
“The Nigerian wives rightly pointed out such communities know exactly
crime perpetrators among them. It is our duty as law enforcers to listen
to people’s advise, support and receive their information so as to
eradicate crime,” Makhubela added.
– CAJ News