South Africa faced the prospect yesterday of a compensation claim from Nigeria over anti-immigrant violence, as aid groups struggled to cope with the tens of thousands of displaced victims.
Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe announced late on Tuesday that they would press South Africa for compensation for its citizens caught up in the xenophobic attacks in the country.
“Following instructions from the foreign ministry, the Nigerian mission has already compiled the list of Nigerians affected during the mayhem with the purpose of seeking compensation from the South African government for loss of properties and physical injuries,” he told journalists in Abuja.
While no Nigerian was among those killed in the attacks, many have lost their properties and others have had their shops looted, Maduekwe said.
Despite the attacks, Nigeria was still committed to strengthening links between the two countries, he said.
South African aid groups meanwhile were struggling to help tens of thousands of people forced to flee their homes in the two weeks of violence.
Nomfundo Mogapi, a program manager for the Johannesburg-based Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, said the number displaced was now approaching the six-figure mark.
“According to the different reports we collected, there are between 80,000 and 100,000 people who left their homes,” he said.
At least 30,000 had been forced out in Johannesburg, 20,000 in the Cape Town area and a further 20,000 in the eastern city of Durban.
The focus in the next few days was expected to turn on how to persuade those sheltering in community centers to return to their shacks, many of which have been burned to the ground.
“It’s only a very few that are going back, because they are very afraid,” Mogapi said.
Foreigners have been blamed for high levels of crime and a lack of job opportunities in the country.
The violence spread to another province on Tuesday with the gasoline bombing of a Chinese-owned business in Eastern Cape province, undermining claims by the government just a day earlier that the unrest had been contained.