The South Africa of today has not always been like this. There was a time in the country’s history when apartheid was the only thing she was known for.
At the time, apartheid in South Africa was an evil that cannot be explained with words.
The dark doctrine, which was nothing but strict racial segregation, was made law in South Africa after the white minority-ruled Nationalist Party assumed power in 1948.
And from that time till 1991, the evil reigned supreme.
During this period, there was nothing the white-ruled Nationalist Party didn’t do to enforce the law.
It was so bad that any black skin could be detained, without a hearing, by a low-level police official for up to six months. And owing to frequent and horrible tortures, thousands of South Africans died in custody.
As at 1950, the government had banned marriages between whites and people of other races and prohibited sexual relations between black and white South Africans.
Equally, the white-ruled Nationalist Party outlawed both the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), both of which were advocating for a national government controlled by the black majority.
A white officer chasing a South African boy during the dark days of apartheid
This would lead to the imprisonment of many leaders of both the ANC and PAC; including Nelson Mandela, in 1962.
Nevertheless, resistance to apartheid and its wicked laws continued. The Treason Trial, Sharpeville Massacre, and Soweto Student Uprising are among the numerous events that resisted against the evil system.
However, barely six months after Nigeria’s independence, the then Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, assured South Africans that the battle against apartheid has just begun.
Tafawa Belewa would not stop there; he worked to ensure that the white government of South Africa was expelled from the Commonwealth in 1961.
And to make clear the country’s stand on the issue, Nigeria, in the spirit of brotherliness, became the first country to provide direct financial aid to the oppressed people of South Africa. $5million was given to both the ANC and PAC, as an annual subvention to support the struggle.
The Sharpeville massacre
It is, however, important to note that during the forty-three years of apartheid, 87% of the land was allocated to 4.5million white minority. While only 13% was granted to 19million black majority.
Their National income was budgeted in such a way that the white minority had 75%, while the black majority was given 20%.
The ratio of doctors to patients in white regions was 1 to 400; while in black communities, it was 1 to 44,000. Thus resulting 60% infant mortality among the blacks and 2.7% in white regions.
Owing to these and many others, Nigeria took it upon herself, yet again, to set up a “Relief Fund” for their educational needs and general welfare through the Southern Africa Relief Fund (SAFR).
The then head of state, General Olusegun Obasanjo contributed the sum $3.7million. He also made a personal donation of $3,000; while every member of his cabinet donated $1,500, each.
Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, spear heading the meeting of the Special Committee against Apartheid, in Lagos 1977.
With that same spirit, Civil servants contributed to the cause by offering 2% of their income to the Fund in what was known as the “Mandela Tax.”
It was even reported at the time that some students skipped their lunch at school just to be able to support the cause.
All these put together led to the realization of $10.5million that was sent to the South Africans.
South Africans should remember that when the world, was at a time, were playing politics with their lives …Nigeria, in her limited capacity, did what she could to fight against the evil.
They should remember that, in 1976, when thousands of black South African children demonstrated in Soweto against the compulsory Afrikaans language for black student, and the police repelled them with tear gas and bullets, which led to the death of 700 students, it was Nigeria that created a safe haven for many of them to come continue their education for free.
One of the 700 murdered students being rushed to the hospital
Instead of instigating hate with the notion that Nigerians are taking the jobs of South Africans, politicians should remind themselves that it was Nigeria who provided a paradise for black South African leaders like Thabo Mbeki (former S.A President) when their country was made hell for them.
They should also remember that it was this same Nigeria, whose citizens now find it difficult to get a visa to their country, that provided international passports for some of their leaders to enable them to flee to safety when the apartheid regime seized their passport.
The xenophobic South Africans should realize that, though some Nigerians in their country are doing all sorts of illegal things in the name of hustling, there are others as well who toil night and day to make ends meet.
And unfortunately, they are the ones that are usually victimized whenever South Africans choose to be beastly.
A Nigerian being beaten by South Africans
Yes, Nigerians are drug lords; fraudsters, thieves, bugler, pickpocket …and all sort of things. But it is also true that Nigerians are arguably the most hardworking peoples on earth. And many of them, till date, contribute to the economy of South Africa.
In conclusion, South Africans should always bear in mind the following words Nelson Mandela which says, “If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.”
Goodness to both Nigerians and other Africans living in South Africa, and forgiveness for one and all.