´╗┐Problems and Prejudice Face Nigerians in Cape Town

After two months in Cape Town, Oliver, 40, has decided to go back to Nigeria. Like many of his compatriots, he is tired of the work permit problems and the way Nigerians are treated in South Africa.

Oliver, who did not want to give his surname, says he is a graduate in economics of the University of Benin in Nigeria. He lost his job at a bank in Nigeria when it downsized.

“I am trying hard to obtain a work permit but it is impossible,” he says. “The restrictions are too much and I have decided to go back home.”

“It’s unfortunate. There are no restrictions on South Africans living in Nigeria. Their businesses are booming.”

He says he has been treated badly by South Africans. “We should be treated with respect and regarded as equals. In Nigeria, we have decent lives and high standards of living. Not all of us are criminals. You cannot throw away the whole basket because of a few rotten eggs.”

Oliver believes Nigerians are the target of prejudice because they are seen as too loud. He says he has seen “calm” Nigerians being asked if they really are Nigerian.

Twenty-eight-year-old Daniel Kalu says he has a degree in physics from the University of Ibadan and came to Cape Town to study for a postgraduate diploma in management.

His special skills work permit application was rejected in July 2014 and he is earning a living bartending and modelling for 39 Steps Agency.

“When I first arrived here people’s perceptions about Nigerians used to bother me a lot. This used to affect my social and business relations but I found a way to deal with it. I know who I am and I do not care what people say as they tend to generalise, associating Nigerians with shady dealings.”

“It is the same when people say South Africans are lazy, unfriendly or xenophobic. This is a general statement because not all of them have those characteristics.”

He remembers the aice his father gave him before he left Nigeria. “My dad said to me: do not forget where you come from, do not turn away from our life standards and morals. I do not pay attention to what people say or think about me. The more you defend yourself the more people want to prove a point. I try to be myself all the time. I am a Christian and when I am not working I go to church.”

Kalu says it is unfair that Nigerian students are put in the same bracket as students from Europe and have to pay higher fees than students from countries in the Southern African Development Community.

“Nigerian students do not come from rich families as perceived. Nigerians are just hard working. Even if there is oil in Nigeria it doesn’t mean they are all benefiting directly from it,” he says.

Aghedo (not his real name), says Nigerians were the first black immigrants to “stand up” under apartheid “and refuse to be exploited by whites”. White South Africans who were not happy to be challenged, he says, then painted Nigerians in a poor light. “Nigerians then established their own businesses and refused to work for someone else.”

In South Africa Nigerians are associated with crime and drugs, with no evidence, Aghedo says. “It is clear prejudice”.

Aghedo runs an organic food restaurant in Plein street which caters for parliamentarians and delivers food within the city bowl. He moved to Cape Town in 1997 after trying Johannesburg, Durban and Pretoria.

Asked about the new immigration regulations that were implemented on 1 April 2014, he said, “For an immigrant like me it looks anti-African but looking at it from a South African perspective, it is understandable that they are protecting their region. However, what would be sensible for me, would be for the minister to say that immigrants who have stayed here for more than ten years should automatically get permanent residence, since they have already contributed to the growth of the South African economy.”

He says documentation is a big issue and some Nigerians end up marrying South Africans and have children so as to secure permanent residence papers.

Aghedo talks about Nigerian culture in the city. He says Nigerians in Cape Town stick to their own code of dress and way of life which has been passed down from the ancestors. “We do not just eat, we eat real nutritious African food prepared with quality organic ingredients. This is why our staple food Egusi is popular.” And he is also proud of Nigerian achievements in Cape Town. “Here in the city centre only, without counting the suburbs, we have five Nigerian shops selling Nigerian products.”

Source : GroundUp