The death of Elizabeth Ndubisi-Chukwu in controversial circumstances at Emperor Palace Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa on June 12, 2019 wasshocking and inexplicable. It was difficult to believe that Elizabeth, who was the Deputy Director of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN), suffered such a callous fate, not as an immigrant in South Africa, but as a visitor for a few days to attendthe African Insurance Organisation [AIO] conference.
The killing of Elizabeth was more painful in the context of the frequent attacks and killing of Nigerians who live and do businesses in South Africa as a result of xenophobia. Data compiled by the Diaspora Commission indicated that as many as 122 Nigerians have been murdered in South Africa by either the police or misguided South Africans in the last three and a half years. This is totally unacceptable on a continent that is emphasizing free trade and diverse kinds of cooperation.
Curiously, the South African authorities have not treated this criminal act with the kind of urgency it deserves. First, the management of Emperor Palace Hotel was reluctant to come clean on the murder by refusing to cooperate with the South African Police Services. It is over a month now since the woman was murdered, yet the police have not made any arrest. An international hotel like Emperor must have a functional Close Circuit Television (CCTV) which should capture every activity in all parts of the hotel. Initially, the hotel was in denial of the murder, claiming that Elizabeth had died in her sleep. It took the autopsy report by the Department of Home Affairs to reveal that she died of unnatural causes related to strangulation. So, who entered Elizabeth’s room and strangulated her? The CCTV, if the hotel has nothing to hide, could help in providing an answer to this question.
Last week, the Senate summoned South African High Commissioner to Nigeria Bobby Moroe over the murder. Moroe told the Senate that his home country had launched a probe into the death to find out what actually happened. He said, “Our government is very firm in its stance that acts of criminality against foreign nationals shall not be tolerated. The law enforcement agencies of South Africa have thus far gone to great length to ensure that perpetrators of any form of crime and violence against foreign nationals are brought to book.”
The envoy’s explanation was like a re-echo of a similar statement made by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa last year when the issue of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians was raised. Ramaphosa had said, “There has been quite a number of incidents in our country where foreign nationals, some of whom are Nigerians, have lost their lives and are being attacked. I will like to say here and now that, that has been as a result of criminal activity among our own people which we are focusing on from a criminal element point of view.”
“I want to state here and now that South Africans do not have any form of negative disposition or hatred towards Nigerians and in the main, Nigerians in South Africa in a number of places of our country live side by side. So, I want to dispel this notion that when a Nigerian loses his or her life in South Africa, it is as a result of an intentional action by South Africans against Nigerians…”
It is clear that such diplomatic statements and say-nothing expressions have not helped matters. The Federal Government should utilize every diplomatic strategy and channel available to ensure that those who killed Elizabeth are brought to book. Government should impress it on South Africans that it is high time they (South Africans) devised measures to prevent such senseless killings of Nigerians. Nigerians living in South Africa have their right to life. The fact that they live in another country does not abridge this right. Enough is enough.