‘We want one Africa’ – protesters in Zambia, Nigeria, DRC react to xenophobia in S. Africa

In Nigeria, Zambia and the DRC incidents and protests have bubbled up in reaction to xenophobic violence in South Africa.
In Nigeria, Zambia and the DRC incidents and protests have bubbled up in reaction to xenophobic violence in South Africa.

Reprisals against South African targets spread to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Thursday, following a wave of violence in South Africa against foreigners living and working there. Similar reprisals targeted South African businesses in Nigeria on Tuesday and Zambia on Wednesday.

Demonstrations and looting were reported in the DRC’s second-biggest city, Lubumbashi. Protesters threw stones at the South African consulate, and police dispersed crowds at South African-owned businesses.

The protests followed attacks in Johannesburg earlier in the week that left at least seven people dead and dozens of foreign-owned shops destroyed. It was the latest outbreak of resentment against foreigners from other African countries coming to work and open businesses in South Africa.

Violence at the South African consulate in Lubumbashi

Several Observers based in Lubumbashi, DRC, brought to our attention violent reprisals on October 5. Congolese police locked down South African shops including Mr Price and the fast food restaurant Chicken Inn.


One of our Observers, who wishes to remain anonymous, explains:

The protests this morning were quite spontaneous [Editor’s note: a peaceful march had been planned by several organisations]. I think President Tshisekedi’s decision to pull out of the World Economic Forum in South Africa gave some encouragement to protesters [editor’s note: Rwanda and Malawi have also pulled out of the forum].

The protesters were chanting ‘Enough is enough, we have to react’. The police quickly cordoned off areas and fired teargas to disperse the crowd around the Mr Price shop. The atmosphere was very hostile: the protesters didn’t want to be filmed attacking shops, and threatened those who wanted to film them.

Other photos and videos show protesters staging a sit-in in front of the South African consulate; some of them threw rocks at it.

Another call to action has been circulating on social media, promoting a similar protest on September 6 in the capital, Kinshasa.

‘If they feel like chasing foreigners from their country will solve their problems, that’s a lie’

On Wednesday, Zambian students took to the streets in response to the recent attacks on foreigners in South Africa. Shopping centres in the capital Lusaka shut their doors after reports that stores belonging to South African chains Shoprite and Pick’n’Pay had been looted. Hundreds of protesters made their way to the South African High Commission, where they burned the sign outside.

The FRANCE 24 Observers team spoke to Timothy (who requested not to use his full name), a Zambian undergraduate at the University of Zambia, who took part in the protest in Lusaka on Wednesday.

Video shot by Timothy, a Zambian student, on September 4, 2019, shows the sign outside the South African High Commission in Lusaka on fire during a protest over anti-foreigner violence in South Africa.


Yesterday, University of Zambia students were demonstrating against xenophobia. We went down the streets shouting, ‘Xenophobia must come to an end’. We went into malls but didn’t go into shops owned by South Africans. They were closed. They had their shutters down. Nothing was damaged, everything was left as it was. Then we marched to the embassy.

When we got there we asked the police to lower the South African flag. Then there was a misunderstanding between police and the students. That’s why the police fired some teargas. Nobody was injured, nobody was arrested. The demonstrations were peaceful.

Outside the South African embassy, a billboard was set on fire, but I’m not aware of any shop being looted or burned. For me, I feel that [any protesters who damaged property] went too far. Those properties cost a lot. As students, we should just be demonstrating to show that we’re not happy. I’m against any damage or violence. I’m not happy with it. That was wrong.

Students and everyone else are upset with what’s going on in South Africa. If our South African brothers stopped what they were doing then the kind of thing we were doing yesterday would not happen. We want one Africa. One people. We want to tell them, ‘Guys, we’re one Africa.’

All of our countries were colonised. We need to come together. If they feel like chasing foreigners from their country will solve their problems, that’s a lie.


The first of the reprisals happened in Nigeria

On September 3, people began to take out their anger, targeting South African businesses. In the neighbourhood of Jakande, a Shoprite supermarket, a South African chain, was looted.

The protesters also attacked motorists, as seen in the video below. But there have been no reports of violence directly targeting South African officials.

Some more peaceful protests also took place, like this Nigerian woman holding a sign which says ‘Tell South Africans to stop killing Nigerians’, in a Shoprite in Lagos.

Several politicians, including Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari and the head of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki, expressed their concern about the xenophobic violence in South Africa. Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of South Africa, also condemned the violence, saying ‘There can be no justification for any South African to attack people from other countries.’

Article by Alexandre Capron (@alexcapron) and Peter O'Brien (@POB_journo).