Posted by Ifedayo Oshin on Sunday, July 6, 2014

From Tembisa to Tsakane, and as far as Alberton, Brakpan, Germiston, and Vosloorus, I have had the opportunity of moving around the Ekhuruleni metropolitan municipality in the last one month. As a Nigerian citizen and a legal alien, my experience of South Africa and its people has been more than wonderful.

Unfortunately, to many Nigerians being Nigerians in South Africa is hell. They complain and lament; “South Africans are not nice”. “South Africans are xenophobic”. “South Africans are lazy and wicked”. “They are hostile and uncultured”. Those are the comments you hear on the street corners and places you find Nigerians and nationals of other African countries.
It is as if there is an unofficial, silent, but potent  animosity between South Africans and citizens of other African countries especially Nigerians. On the part of some South Africans, the expression “kwerekwere” (a local word for foreigner) confirms the host citizens’ feeling towards their fellow African brothers and sisters.

Let us reflect on this for a while. Are South Africans really that bad? Is it true that they pathologically hate Nigerians as the worst ‘kwerekwere’ that must be rid of and sent back to their country?

My answer is no. my reason. During my movement around Ekhuruleni I have met hundreds of South Africans in their different demographics. And in spite of my slightly Nigerian accent and physical looks, I have been welcomed, helped and friended with smiles. What I learnt from my experience is that no one hates anyone who adds value and true humanity to them. Anyone who does not make them feels less human. No one disrespects anyone who respects them who tries and meet them at the middle, who strives to speak the language no matter how poorly. 

I think my experience is a lesson point for Nigerians and other Africans in South Africa.  Every citizen of African countries must always remember that they are visitors in South Africa. What Nigerians and other citizens of African countries often failed to realize or forget is that they are visitors who must live according to the laws of their host country. You cannot disrespect or dislodge a man in his own home. You cannot compete or beat a man in his house. Traditional courtesy demands of a visitor to conduct himself in the way acceptable to the owner of the house. Same applies to Nigerians and other African brothers and sisters. If you come to my house and mess it up, I will send you out. I am sure you will do the same.

SO, if we fail to respect South Africa and its citizens in our attitudes and speeches, we should never hope to be respected. If we do not show respect to South African children and women, I do not see how South Africa will not be hell for us and even worse.

Fellow Africans, especially Nigerians, stop the complaints and disrespect of South Africans.

We are the visitors here, this is their country. We must show them respect. Our actions, words and activities must be such that bring value to every South African we meet. We must be open-minded about them. We can’t live like we are Nigerians in Nigeria. Remember, if you are in Rome, behave like the Romans. Maybe, after then, South Africa may change its attitudes towards us, and change our name to our African brothers.

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