By Maxwell Ofori, Parliament House
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Asawase constituency and Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Muntaka Mohammed Mubarak, has thrown a challenge to African countries to stop patronising South African products, as a protest against the xenophobic attacks.
His comments were in relation to recent attacks on foreign nationals living in South Africa, with particular focus on Nigerians. The MP made this assertion last Friday on the floor of Parliament, when commenting on a statement made by the Foreign Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, on the xenophobic attacks which began about a week.
According to him, it was about time other African countries stopped being too diplomatic to critical issues and point out the wrongs being perpetrated by the South Africans, who, mostly, depend on the other countries to sell their products.
“Mr Speaker, I am guided by your wise counsel that we need to be guarded, but, Mr Speaker, I beg you to suggest this; can all Africans avoid products from South Africa as a way of showing them that we depend on each other. Mr Speaker, it will interest you to note, and my colleagues who are in Pan African Parliament will tell you, since the xenophobic attacks in 2015, I have never bought anything in South Africa, apart from food and water, and I have said it in the Pan African Parliament that that was my personnel protest against the xenophobic attacks. I will never spend anything apart from what will keep me alive, and Mr Speaker, I have stuck to that up to date,” he indicated.
He further stated that Africans believe that they are one people and depend on each other, citing that it was sad to note the incidents in South Africa. He added that members of the Pan African Parliament were not happy with the situation, which was the eighth one as of 2015, and suggested that if the xenophobic attacks were not going to stop, then the Pan African Parliament should be relocated from South Africa.
The MP said some assurances were given by their ministers, even from their President, assuring Africans of their safety in South Africa, but the attacks still persist, though the government of South Africa had condemned the acts, describing same as unfortunate, and that steps were being taken to make sure that the perpetrators were brought to book.
“Mr Speaker, as we speak today, nothing has been done, even though some of the attackers were caught on cameras, to the extent that some were even reported to be members of the South African officials, yet nothing has happened.
“Mr Speaker, you said our comments should be guarded, because of diplomacy, but my worry is for how long can we continue to do this kind of diplomacy while our people continue to suffer? For how long can we continue to give these nice words while our people continue to suffer in each other’s hands?” he queried.
He urged other African countries to unite “not to violently also attack properties of South Africa in our countries, not to violently attack their citizens in our countries, but to boycott their products.” He explained that if other African countries begin to boycott any South African product, they will begin to feel the heat at home, and that will make them know that we need each other.
“Because, Mr Speaker, of the pain in South Africa; I remember in 2015, when we were debating this, we were reminded on how Nigerian students had to forego their lunch and supper and contributed that money to fight apartheid in South Africa. How many African countries had to put their loss aside, and give their freedom fighters shelter, food and what have you, just for them to be able to get out of their difficulties.
“Today, in less than just 15 years, they seem to have forgotten that we were the people together standing with them and pushing to get them liberated. Now they are venting their anger on innocent Africans who are there struggling daily.
“I will urge that our Foreign Minister, who has ably made this statement, summon the South African Ambassador to find out why they keep assuring us and keep doing nothing. If they were to punish the perpetrators, like any other crime in South Africa, I am sure this would come to an end, but if they continue not to address the issue and pretend that they are doing something, when, in actual sense they are doing nothing, we will continue to have this situation.”
On his part, the Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, agreed with the sentiments expressed by the Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak.
“Mr Speaker, he alludes to what Nigeria did in facilitating the liberation of South Africa. Mr Speaker, Ghana has done much, much, better than Nigeria, as far as these matters are concerned, contributing to liberating the state in Southern Africa, but why all of a sudden are we witnessing these matters? Mr Speaker, I believe the answer is simple; primarily attributable to mis-governance. South Africa, after independence, was the largest economy in Africa. Over just two years, they have lost the place. Nigeria has overtaken them, and their economy keeps shrinking. ‘Dum-so dum-so’ has affected South Africa, and there is massive and colossal corruption taking place in South Africa, and the ordinary people are left to their fate.
“Mr Speaker, these things that are happening are not at the instance of government. It is against government, and they are attacking other nationals, who, in their view, have come in to take their place, even though, ordinarily, many of the jobs that these African countries and nationals from other African countries have plunged themselves into may ordinarily not be taken up by these South Africans themselves. Given the situation they find themselves in now, they think that the other nationals are taking over their positions, and that is what is aggravating the situation. For now, the focus is on Nigerians, and it is so, because every now and then, when you hear of drug business you point accusing fingers to the Nigerians, in spite of the fact that many of the Nigerian guys who are there are into good jobs and helping to grow the economy of South Africa, but because of a few miscreants, a few Nigerians are in drug business, they are attacking the citizens of Nigeria.”
The statement by the Foreign Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, indicated that the Ghana High Commission in South Africa had reported that in the Cape Town area, about 70 nationals had their business properties destroyed in a locality, and 20 others were affected at a different location.
However, most nationals, who, initially sought refuge in designated centres, had now returned to their homes, and the High Commissioner was monitoring the situation
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