South Africa, Nigeria And The Case Of Threatened Brotherhood
In 1948, after the Nationalist Party took over the affairs of South Africa, attempts to define segregation came into play. In what would become South Africa’s darkest reign of terror, the Apartheid evoked sentiments that would later alter the mental capacity of the black majority in the African nation.
During this time, the Nationalist Party introduced what is known as Apartheid meaning ‘separateness’ in Afrikaans. The law called for the separate development of the different racial groups in South Africa in 1948.
On paper, it appeared to be a call for equal development and freedom of cultural expression, but the way it was implemented made this impossible. The Nationalist Party created laws that forced the different racial groups to live, marry and work separately. It also attempted to put an end to all inter-marriage and social integration between racial groups with the Population Registration Act of 1950.
The new laws gave the police the power to detain at will and for months. Thus, the laws made it made possible for the easy detainment of a black man in prison without a hearing.
In addition, the all-white government introduced a series of land acts that transferred the control of 85% of South Africa’s land to the 4.5 million whites. The black were numbered at about 19 million.
Giving the sufferings of the blacks, two parties, the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), emerged. Each, advocating for a black majority government, banishment of the permit limiting the black man’s movement.
The activities had infuriated some of Nigeria’s leaders so that a few months into gaining her independence, Nigeria’s prime minister, Tafawa Balewa publicly declared his stand against apartheid. To show that he meant business, Tafawa Belewa sought the expulsion of the white government of South Africa from the Commonwealth in 1961. Nigeria became the first country to provide direct financial aid ($5 million) to the black majority.
Another way in which the Nationalist Party subjugated the minority was to introduce a system where the minority was entitled to 1 doctor per 44,000 as opposed to 1 to 400 for the white minority. Angered by this, the Nigerian government set up a “Relief Fund” in partnership with the Southern Africa Relief Fund (SAFR) which will see through to ensuring that the educational and welfare needs of the blacks were gotten.
In 1975 when the Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo administrations took over the affairs of Nigeria, they made their stance known almost immediately especially in the fight for self-determination and against racism and apartheid.
Speaking at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) summit in January 1976, General Mohammed said, ‘Mr. Chairman, when I contemplate the evils of apartheid, my heart bleeds and I am sure the heart of every true-blooded African bleeds … Rather than join hands with the forces fighting for self-determination and against racism and apartheid, the United States policy-makers clearly decided that it was in the best interests of their country to maintain white supremacy and minority regimes in Africa.
“Africa has come of age. It is no longer under the orbit of any extra-continental power. It should no longer take orders from any country, however powerful. The fortunes of Africa are in our hands to make or mar. For too long we have been kicked around. For too long we have been treated like adolescents who cannot discern their interests and act accordingly. For too long it has been presumed that the African needs outside ‘experts’ to tell him who are his friends and who are his enemies.”
A month after General Muhammad gave his “Africa has come of age” address, he was murdered causing the then General Olusegun Obasanjo to step in as Head of State. Besides increasing financial aid and granting logistical support for the liberation movement, he organised an anti-Apartheid conference in Lagos in August 1977 tagged the World Conference for Action against Apartheid.
While giving his speech at the conference, he was quoted as saying,
“It will no longer help for our so-called friends to adopt pious postures and preach non-violence when our enemies are inflicting mental and physical violence on us. We shall no longer watch the racists of Pretoria devise improvements to their machinery of terror and repression. We should no longer be just outraged, we must act.
Asides the $3.7 million dollars donated by the Nigerian government under him, Obasanjo also contributed a personal sum of $3,000 and enjoined his cabinet members to donate $1,500 each.His actions encouraged civil servants to contribute 2% of their funds to what was known as the “Mandela Tax.” Students and citizens of the country also donated to this cause. In the end, a total of $10.5million was realized and sent to South Africa.
After Nelson Mandela was sentenced to death, Nigeria’s first speaker of House of Representatives and first Minister of Foreign Affairs in Nigeria, Jaja Wachukwu, used his established strong relations as the first Ambassador and Paramount Representative of Nigeria to the United Nation to overturn the death penalty of Mandela and 12 other freedom fighters to life imprisonment. This is asides Nigeria’s attempt to grant asylum to Mandela.
While in prison, Nigeria supported the black minority by granting aid relief, granting scholarships to South Africans to school in Nigeria, giving visas and security among other things.
After his release from prison, Mandela, full of thanks for Nigeria’s efforts, praised the nation publicly in his speeches. That is not all, it became obvious to the world Nigeria had succeeded in showing the world the true definition of brotherhood.
But that sense of brotherhood is obviously lost on a band of South Africans who pounced on other African nationals in fits of rage described as Afrophobia by South African foreign affairs minister Naledi Pandor.
But the likes of Julius Malema, the leader of Economic Freedom Fighters are still hopeful that the brotherhood will endure.
“This country belongs to South Africans the same way Nigeria belongs to South Africa. Nigeria is South Africa, South Africa is Nigeria. We are Zimbabweans. We need to do away with this nonsensical idea imposed on us by colonizers,” Malema said.