Mr Steven Gruzd, the Head of African Governance and Diplomacy Programme (AGDP) in South African Institute of International Affairs, says xenophobia has damaged the image and reputation of South Africa.
Gruzd made the remarks during an interview with our correspondent on Wednesday against the backdrop of recent xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa.
He said that the government of South Africa had not put in place adequate policies and campaigns to fight xenophobia.
According to him, the government seemed impotent and reluctant to believe that the situation is Xenophobia.
“Politicians have used anti-migrant rhetoric that has gone viral and influenced people on the ground.
“There are also, undoubtedly, criminals and thugs that take advantage of the chaos.
“It’s a toxic mix which makes poor Africans from other countries targets of the mob mentality.
“An outreach to African embassies is a good start to addressing the problem and I believe a massive anti-xenophobia campaign is urgently needed.
“Perhaps, the cancellation of football friendlies by Zambia and Madagascar might begin to make the message clear,” Gruzd said.
Our correspondent reports that following the attacks, Nigeria also pulled out of the World Economic Forum for Africa which was held from Sept. 4 to Sept. 6 in Cape Town, South Africa, among other diplomatic measures in protest of the attacks.
Gruzd said the situation, which sprang up every few years was embarrassing, regrettable and unacceptable.
“It has done immense damage to the social fabric of the country and the image of South Africa internationally, especially among other African states.
“Some have characterised this as a war among the poor.
“South Africa faces dire economic circumstances with tremendous poverty, inequality and unemployment pushing towards 30 per cent.
“This leaves the young and old frustrated, disillusioned and angry.
“They look for scapegoats, and people from other countries quickly become easy targets,” he said.
Gruzd said that the xenophobic attacks were like scabs that kept getting picked and bled afresh.
“It seems there is the need for tough conversations ahead because the relationship between South Africa and Nigeria is critical for the success of Africa.
“I believe it is important that Nigeria takes a tough stance on the violence against its nationals and others in South Africa,” he said.
The South African Government has formally apologised to Nigerians and the Nigerian Government over the attacks on foreign nationals, including Nigerians in that country.
The apology was conveyed by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Special Envoy to Nigeria, Mr Jeff Radebe, when he met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday.
It was also reported that the South African airport authorities on Tuesday delayed granting landing permit to Air Peace to carry out evacuation of 320 Nigerians.