SA violence: Nigeria to seek compensation

Published on Tuesday 27th May 2008

Abuja (Nigeria): Nigeria will seek compensation from South Africa for its citizens who were injured or lost property during xenophobic violence that killed dozens and displaced thousands, the government said on Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe said the authorities had drawn up a list of Nigerians who fell victim to the mayhem that erupted in Johannesburg's Alexandra township on May 11 before spreading to Cape Town and the eastern port city of Durban.

Mobs armed with knives, stones and guns have killed at least 56 people over the past two weeks, some of them clubbed and burnt alive. At least 30,000 people have fled to refugee centres following the attacks on shanty towns.

"It is reassuring that no Nigerian was killed in the wave of attacks ... (but) many of them lost their properties and their shops were looted," Maduekwe told a news conference in Abuja.

"The mission has already compiled the list of Nigerians ... with the purpose of seeking compensation from the South African government," he said.

South Africa said on Monday the violence had been brought under control. President Thabo Mbeki called the attacks a disgrace and said his government would act firmly to curb bloodshed as criticism from African nations grew.

Nigeria's push for compensation came after South Africa's Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka apologised to victims of the anti-foreigner attacks while visiting Abuja last week.

A group of 57 influential rights campaigners in Malawi has also demanded an apology and compensation for Malawians who fell victim to the attacks.

"The government ... must apologise to the people of the Malawi for the killing, rape, the harassment, the intimidation and all the savage acts the citizens of Malawi have suffered during the chaos," the Human Rights Consultative Committee said in a petition to the South African High Commissioner in Malawi.

Officials in Ghana say at least five of their nationals have been killed in the unrest and scores more are seeking refuge but the West African country has not made any compensation claim.

"It is premature to be talking about that. Our concern is the safety of our people," Foreign Minister Akwasi Osei-Adjei told Reuters.

South Africa's government has been criticised for its slow reaction to the bloodshed, the worst since apartheid ended 14 years ago, and for not addressing the poverty that is widely blamed for the violence.

Migrant workers are accused by many poor South Africans of taking scarce jobs and fuelling violent crime in sub-Saharan Africa's biggest economy.

The violence has dented South Africa's reputation as one of the most welcoming to immigrants and refugees, especially from southern Africa. Thousands of frightened migrants from nearby Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique have been forced to return home.