Sitting outside the Consulate General of Nigeria in Johannesburg, 57-year-old Grace Ajayi could not hold back her tears as she spoke to City Press about the xenophobic attacks which have left her traumatised and with no option but to go back to her native country.
“We have been victims of these attacks since 2008 but the most recent ones have been the worst and there is nothing more I can do. I have to go back for my own safety,” she told City Press on Wednesday afternoon.
“These attacks will not end. More is coming. We have been forced out by South Africans so we are obliging before our families receive us in body bags.”
More than 60 people were kileld during the 2008 xenophobic attacks.
Over the last week, 12 people were killed in the violence aimed at foreign nationals.
“Out of the 12 people that have lost their lives in ongoing looting and xenophobic violence, ten of them were South African,” said Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
The minister was briefing the media on behalf of justice and security cluster ministers in Parliament on Tuesday, following a week of violent protests and looting in Gauteng.
Ajayi – who has been living in South Africa since 2007 – made a life for herself in Khayelitsha where she told City Press she had built her restaurant business from scratch.
“We came here as Africans and have struggled to make lives for ourselves. My business in Cape Town was robbed and looted. That was the same restaurant that employed South Africans who had families to feed. South Africans that we love as brothers and sisters,” she said emotionally as she clutched her belongings.
Ajayi had to make her way to Johannesburg on Tuesday as she needed assistance from the Nigerian consulate to travel back to the country after she “lost everything during the attacks” and did not have a way to provide for herself.
“I had to fly from Cape Town [on Tuesday] for me to be here [at the consulate] today so I could get my documents in order.”
She added: “I am very angry about what has happened. There is no love in South Africa. We have been called names like ‘kwerekwere’. Why should South Africans name call us?”
The Nigerian ministry of foreign affairs last week announced on Twitter that it would be sending an aircraft to South Africa to “evacuate Nigerians who wished 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,” read the tweet.
On Wednesday, the ministry subsequently said in a tweet: “More than 640 Nigerians registered for the free flight back home and the first batch left on Wednesday from OR Tambo International with the second one expected to leave Thursday or Friday.”
However, Ajayi was not lucky enough to be on the first flight back home.
“I am sure I will leave tomorrow or on Friday,” she told City Press.
The mother of two – who said her children were “back home” – said those in power were responsible for the recent attacks on foreign nationals.
“People in power make statements against foreign nationals and this triggers ordinary people. Some people end up taking advantage of the situation; they are attacking our homes, looting and burning down our businesses,” she said.
“They say these young people are crazy for carrying out these attacks. They are not, they are triggered by government officials. They are carrying out apartheid part two.”