Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Clashes erupted Wednesday between South African taxi drivers and foreign nationals in Pretoria, South Africa.
The melee, according to reports, led to South African taxi drivers setting ablaze shops belonging to foreign nationals, including Nigerians.
A message circulating on social media read: “Violence is spreading throughout the city, with foreigners locking up their shops. Fears looting could erupt soon.”
Corroborating the report, The Citizen, a South African Newspaper, wrote:
“Protests have once again erupted in the Pretoria CBD, with reports streaming in of protesters looting foreign-owned shops. Several taxis are also said to be blocking roads in the CBD, as taxi drivers continue protesting after one was shot dead on Tuesday.”
However, the President of the Nigerian Citizens Association in South Africa, Mr Ben Okoli, in a message forwarded to a Daily Sun source, said the immediate cause of the crisis was a business deal gone wrong on Tuesday between a South African and a Tanzanian.
“The Tanzanian and Nyaope drug users killed a taxi driver yesterday. Today the taxi drivers regrouped and started attacking people and shop owners closed. The taxi drivers went ahead to break closed shops and started looting. The police came and the taxi drivers attacked the police. Most shops are set on fire after it is looted. Nigerians have businesses around the area; they closed before it all started. However, it looked like a few of the Nigerian owed shops have been affected now. We are still making contacts to find out the extent it may have affected our citizens. A Yoruba guy, a staff of the NICASA BOT chairman, was abducted by the irate taxi drivers, but he managed to escape and is safe now,” Okoli said.
But a different message forwarded to Daily Sun by a top South African diplomat, read:
“Violence between taxi drivers and Nigerian drug lords.
“Road closures due to violence and looting include parts of Boom, Bloed, Lilian Ngoyi, Thabo Sehume, Struben – avoid travel into the area.
“Looting of foreign owned spaza shops in Pretoria at corner Struben and Lilian Ngoyi street. Police on scene.”
However, efforts to reach the Nigerian High Commissioner in Pretoria was not successful as he was said to be out of South Africa.
A highly placed diplomatic official told Daily Sun that although no Nigerian was involved in the clashes, some Nigerians suffered business losses alongside other foreign nationals.