Air Peace Airlines has offered free flights to Nigerians willing to return from South Africa from Friday, September 6, Concise News reports.
According to a statement on Wednesday and signed by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ferdinand Nwonye, the development follows the recent xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other African migrants.
Nwonye said Air Peace volunteered to send an aircraft from Friday to evacuate Nigerians who wish to return to Nigeria “free of charge.”
“The general public is hereby advised to inform their relatives in South Africa to take advantage of this laudable gesture.
“Interested Nigerians are therefore advised to liaise with the High Commission of Nigeria in Pretoria and the Consulate General of Nigeria in Johannesburg for further necessary arrangement,” the statement read.
However, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama, said on Wednesday that Nigeria would not ‘cave in’ on its two demands from South Africa, which are compensation for Nigerians whose properties were destroyed and provision of adequate security for Nigerians in South Africa.
The foreign affairs ministry’s statement on Wednesday suggested the government was encouraging Nigerians in South Africa to return.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to inform the general public that following the recent unfortunate xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals, including Nigerians in South Africa, the Proprietor of Air Peace Airlines Chief Allen Onyema, has volunteered to send an aircraft from Friday 6th September 2019 to evacuate Nigerians who wish to return to Nigeria free of charge.
“The general public is hereby advised to inform their relatives in South Africa to take advantage of this laudable gesture. Interested Nigerians are therefore advised to liaise with the High Commission of Nigeria in Pretoria and the Consulate General of Nigeria in Johannesburg for further necessary arrangement,” Nwonye wrote.
South Africa and Nigeria stepped security on Wednesday after deadly attacks on foreign-owned stores in Johannesburg triggered reprisal assaults on South African businesses in Nigerian cities.
The centre of Johannesburg and the impoverished suburb of Alexandra were calm as police stepped up patrols following two days of looting, AFP reporters saw.
Shops cautiously began to open again, as some residents sifted around in wrecked stores, rummaging for food and anything usable.
Amid mounting concern for relations between South Africa and its neighbours and Nigeria — the continent’s most populous market — President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated his condemnation of the violence.
“We face a huge challenge. A number of people (are) taking the law into their own hands,” he said in Cape Town, ahead of a three-day meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) due to be attended by 15 African leaders.
“Taking action against people of other countries is not right,” he said.
“South Africa is home for all. We are not the only country that has become home for people fleeing.”
Five people, most of them South Africans, have been killed and at least 289 have been arrested since the violence flared on Sunday.
Dozens of shops have been destroyed in Johannesburg and nearby Pretoria, the country’s political capital.
Trucks suspected of being driven by foreigners have also been torched in the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal.
South Africa is a major destination for economic migrants from neighbouring Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. But others come from much farther away, including South Asia and Nigeria.
The influx has led to sporadic outbreaks of violence against foreign businesses, sparked by the perception that jobs are being taken away from South Africans
In 2008, xenophobic violence left 62 dead, while in 2015, seven people were killed in attacks in Johannesburg and Durban.
But the latest rash of attacks has sparked particular concern. It comes against a background of persistently grim news about the economy. Nearly one in three of South Africans are unemployed.
Similar messages of concern have been voiced by South Africa’s neighbours.
In Zambia, about a thousand students demonstrated on Wednesday outside the SouthAfrican embassy in Lusaka, as President Edgar Lungu urged measures to prevent xenophobia from escalating into “genocide.”
In Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said: “We strongly condemn all forms of hate driven violence and applaud the South African authorities for the swift way they have responded.”
In Botswana, the ministry of international affairs and cooperation urged all citizens living in or travelling to South Africa “to exercise extreme caution… (and) avoid areas where unrests are currently occurring.”