Former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki has said that the recent xenophobic attack against foreigners in the country was targeted at criminals and not Nigerians.

On Sunday, September 1, and Monday, September 2, 2019, South African mobs launched attacks on foreigners in their country, looted and burnt their places of business in suburbs of Johannesburg and surrounding areas.

Reacting to the incident, Mbeki said the recent violent demonstration in the former apartheid country was targeted at criminals.

In a two minute video Published on Twitter by Africa Facts Zone on Saturday, September 7, 2019, Mbeki said it is incorrect to read that South Africans launched attacks on Nigerians.

He said, “The truth of the matter is that there are Nigerian criminals, who are involved in drug dealing, and that’s true. There are Nigerian criminals who are involved in prostitution and that’s true. And you will find, like in this incident now in this area of Johannesburg, it was against criminals not Nigerians.

There is no South African that goes around chasing Nigerians because they are Nigerians….It is incorrect to read that there’s been an offensive against Nigerians in South Africa, that is not true. So, I am saying when you talk about xenophobia and afrophobia we need to be very careful about it.” 

Earlier, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor said many Nigerians in the country are involved in drug and human trafficking.

In the heat of the unrest, Pandor while granting an interview to a South African news platform, eNCA, said South Africans believe that Nigerians are harming their youths.

Asked if the South African security agencies helped in protecting foreigners during the attack, Pandor said, “I would appreciate them in helping us as well to address the belief our people have and the reality that there are many persons from Nigeria dealing in drugs in our country.

“I believe that Nigerian nationals are involved in human trafficking and other abusive practices.

“These kinds of assistance of ensuring that such persons do not come to our country will be of great assistance to our nation.”

Meanwhile, more than 300 Nigerians have reportedly registered for evacuation from South Africa.

According to Punch, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ferdinand Nwonye, on Friday, September 6, 2019, disclosed that over 300 Nigerians had registered for the exercise, adding that the time and date of departure would be announced later.