How safe is South Africa for Nigerian visitors? And tips to ensure your safety
Xenophobia is a reality that you must consider when planning your visit to South Africa. South Africa is an exciting place to visit yet it also “quite” unsafe.
You would remember that there have been numerous xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa lately. And this is no longer news. Because between 2000 and 2008 alone, at least 67 people lost their lives in various attacks linked to xenophobia.
Now, don’t get this wrong. It is not only Nigerians that suffer these attacks. As Nigerians are only some of the victims amongst other Africans. But Nigerians are one of the most traveled people in the world. There is hardly a place on earth where you would not find us.
Many travel for tourism, business, medical treatment, education, and so on. But before you decide to travel to any foreign land (in this case, South Africa), you should do your homework about your safety during your visit.
Truth is: We live in an imperfect world, and hosts generally have diverse perspective about foreigners. Leading to varying experiences of foreigners in foreign countries. In the case of foreigners and tourists in South Africa, the struggle for safety is something that is not only real but also happen every day.
Just so you understand how unsafe South Africa could be, below are some of the documented cases of the victims of attacks in the country:
A Nigerian, Clement Nwaogu, was murdered in South Africa last year. The Anambra indigene worked as an upholsterer in South Africa and was killed because a group of South Africans found his accent and habits offensive. Clement was first beaten to stupor by a mob before he was set ablaze.
According to an eye-witness account, “Clement beckoned for help from the police to intervene and help him, but they turned a blind eye. When Nwaogu could no longer persevere, he ran for safety; the mob chased and caught him, poured petrol on him and set him ablaze.”
In addition, the Publicity Secretary of the Nigeria Union in South Africa, Habib Miller, confirmed that in December 2017, a Nigerian was killed in cold blood by an angry police officer when he did not yield to extortion.
The incidence led to a protest by the Nigerian community in South Africa, leading to the incarceration of 14 people. Meanwhile, the murderer was released while the protesters continued to rot in jail.
And as you have discovered earlier, Nigerians are not the only ones attacked. Abdikadir Ibrahim Danicha, a Somali National, whose store was looted and had to run for his life told Aljazeera network, in an exclusive interview that “South African people don’t like us”.
Danicha’s life was upended when his convenience store was looted. Even his large refrigerator, despite its size, was carted away. Few months after Danicha started to run the business again, he said “I don’t feel safe” when interviewed in his partially restocked store.
Another victim, Masrat Eliso, an Ethiopian national, said “I don’t even have clothes …. I lost all my things” four days after his shop was looted in xenophobic motivated act by the South Africans in Protea Glen, a suburb of Soweto. “I don’t have money. I don’t have anything and I’m scared for my life”. Eliso confessed.
Meanwhile, the South African government claims not to support violence in any form. But why do the perpetrators continue to get away with such inhumane acts?
The South African law on self-defense has some interesting answers on this. According to this law, you are only allowed to use lethal force as a last resort when your life is endangered. In other words, if someone tries to rob you, you just have to say “don’t do that”. If you hurt the thief, you will go to prison except you are able to proof that he has the intent to hurt you first.
Below is an excerpt of an answer from Quora by a South African citizen who shed more light on the law;
The quickest answer is basically you can use lethal force when your life is in imminent danger, in South Africa the law allows you to protect your life and the lives of those around you, but not your property as in America, so basically if someone is busy stealing your car and you shoot and kill him, you go to prison for murder. If you don’t kill him but do hurt him badly enough, you go to prison for attempted murder. If you hurt him just a little bit, you get charged with assault. Either way he goes free and you get into shit.
If someone points a gun at you and you shoot and kill him, you’ll have to prove that he actually intended to kill you first. And then you will need to have shot off at least one warning shot before firing on him directly. If he fires his gun at you, and you shoot him dead you’ll probably be ok as long as it’s clear that you weren’t the attacker.
If there’s an intruder inside your house and you shoot him in the back, you go to prison for murder because he was trying to get away and not a threat.
You get the picture. The law protects the criminals and punishes the citizens. That’s why there is such a huge culture of mob justice and vigilanteism I’m south Africa, the people are so sick of the law failing them that they take matters into their own hands, and it’s pretty much always ugly when a community gets hold of a criminal, they show no mercy and often end his life in a South African original, the necklace. It’s called a necklace because they put a tire around his neck, they douse it in petrol and light him up. Not a nice way to go. It happens so often that it doesn’t even make the news, no one gets arrested in these cases because by the time the cops arrive it’s all over and nobody saw a thing. By Kuba Silkiewicz
South African law values life over property, and allows self-defense only as a last resort, if you are NOT the first aggressor, and as a proportional response.
This means a few different concerns would come up in court, and the judge would ultimately decide how they combine to a specific case.
So you cannot use lethal force against somebody who is trying to steal from you but not trying to hurt you. You can’t use lethal force against somebody who is running away – and if you start the fight, you can’t use lethal force at all (first aggressors cannot claim self defence under any circumstances – this is actually common in most countries).
You can use lethal force if you have legitimate cause to believe your life is in imminent danger. Contrary to below points you don’t need to have been wounded, but if a person is coming at you with a deadly weapon the court won’t convict you for fighting them off -even using lethal force.
If there is real reason to believe you SHOULD have been able to fight him off WITHOUT using lethal force -that would change the picture. Such a scenario is unlikely but it could happen.
Again the exact circumstances would determine the outcome. A small-built woman being attacked by a large muscular man who could conceivably kill her with his bare hands will probably not be convicted if she chooses to stab the guy.
The law favours life over property, and demands that self defence force be proportional to the situation. If somebody is punching you, no court will convict you for punching back. If somebody is punching you without a reasonable chance of killing you – then you WIL go to jail if you respond by shooting or stabbing the person.
Over-all the law is actually quite sensible in striking a balance that is built around the premise that the ideal outcome, even of a criminal event, is one where all participants are still alive at the end. By AJ Venter
If you would like to know more about the South African law on self-defense, please visit HERE
Finally, tips on how to safely visit South Africa:
1- Avoid Johannesburg, most crimes and xenophobic attacks are mostly from there.
2- Consider the city centers in Cape Town and Pretoria for your accommodation.
3- Don’t stay in cheap hotels, pay for safety.
4- Don’t stay in Townships: the word townships in South Africa could mean the underdeveloped area in South Africa which was reserved for non-whites, namely Indians, Africans and Colored during apartheid.
5- Be at alert: This tip is applicable to staying safe anywhere in the world. The moment you have a funny feeling that something is off, move out of the place and go somewhere safe ASAP.
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