Nigerian nationals living in South Africa have partnered with locals to start dialogues aimed at ending the differences between the two countries.
The initiative under the banner called Nig-SA Unity Forum was officially unveiled in Midrand on Wednesday. It is made up of pastors, academics, the business community and civil society from both countries who want to end the negative sentiment which has strained relations for a long time.
Pastor Segun Olanipekun, one of the forum’s leaders, apologised to South Africans for the wrong that some of his countrymen had done.
“Our apology to South Africans is unequivocal. What some the members of the South African community have been complaining about – the criminal elements among Nigerians, prostitution, drug peddling, we apologise for that,” said Olanipekun.
“There is no sane person who will want their children to be recruited to drugs…
“We want to work with the South African community to make sure that this does not continue.”
The forum plans to run dialogues between South Africans and Nigerians to get a better understanding of the problems which have caused friction between the two.
Olanipekun said the dialogues would be conducted in “brutal honesty”.
Differences between South Africans and Nigerian nationals reached their worse state after shops owned by foreign nationals were looted and burnt in the recent xenophobic attacks. Shops belonging to locals were not spared either as the violence erupted in Malvern and spread to other parts of Gauteng.
A total of 12 people died in the violence and more than 600 were arrested for various crimes. The violence caused serious diplomatic problems for South Africa as Nigerians retaliated with attacks on some South African businesses in that country.
The forum, also led by African Christian Democratic Party leader Rev Kenneth Meshoe, wants to find a long-term solution to the negative sentiment which has prevailed over the years.