* Nigerians target South Africa's MTN in revenge attacks
* Anti-foreigner violence hit Pretoria this week
* High unemployment fuels South African xenophobia
(Recasts with ultimatum from youth body, adds South Africa
foreign ministry comment)
By Paul Carsten and Anamesere Igboeroteonwu
ABUJA, Feb 23 Nigerian protesters on Thursday
demanded that South African citizens and businesses leave the
country and vandalised the head office of mobile phone giant MTN
in Abuja in retaliation for anti-Nigerian violence in
The National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) said it
had given South Africans 48 hours to get out otherwise the
attacks would continue and the vandalisation of MTN's offices
would be just the beginning.
Nigeria and South Africa, the continent's two largest
economies and pre-eminent diplomatic and military powers, have a
The students' threats follow the looting this week of at
least 20 small businesses believed to belong to immigrants in
South Africa's capital, Pretoria.
"We are not going to kill like them and that is why we have
asked their citizens to leave, but we will sure destroy their
businesses," NANS president Aruna Kadiri told Reuters.
Nobody was killed in the violence in Pretoria, according to
South African police.
South African foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela
called for both sides to keep their cool.
"'An eye for an eye makes the world blind' .... 'Violence
begets violence'. We are better than this. Africans are one
people!" Monyela said on Twitter.
A spokesman for MTN, the biggest South African company
active in Nigeria, said protesters stormed the regional head
office, vandalising equipment, attacking customers and stealing
some of their phones.
A Reuters reporter could see no obvious damage from the
outside of the building which had been cordoned off.
"They forcefully entered the MTN office. Security men were
around but unable to curtail the protesters, who forced the
gates open and entered the office," said one witness, adding
that students and petty criminals appeared to be among the mob.
The incident coincided with a visit by MTN chairman Phuthuma
Nhleko to the Nigerian capital to see Vice President Yemi
Osinbajo, who has been in charge for the last month with
President Muhammadu Buhari absent on sick leave.
Earlier this week, Nigeria's foreign ministry said it would
summon South Africa's envoy to raise its concerns over
"xenophobic attacks" on Nigerians, other Africans and
South African police have refused to say if the Pretoria
attackers were specifically targeting foreigners. But South
Africa's Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on Thursday
acknowledged there had been renewed violence against foreigners
"Unfortunately, xenophobic violence is not new in South
Africa," Gigaba said.
The violence against immigrants has flared against a
background of near-record unemployment, with foreigners being
accused of taking jobs from locals and getting involved in
The minister said some residents in Pretoria planned a march
on Friday against immigrants.
(Reporting by Ed Cropley in Johannesburg, Chijioke Ohuocha in
Lagos, Paul Carsten in Abuja, Wendell Roelf in Cape Town and
Anamesere Igboeroteonwu in Onitsha; Writing by Ed Cropley and
Ulf Laessing; Editing by James Macharia and Richard Lough)