Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorist organization, has threatened to kill all South Africans in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and the surrounding region, according to media reports based on a video allegedly released by the group. The threat came as a response to a wave of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, in which ordinary South Africans, primarily blacks, have killed, maimed, abused and expelled other Africans throughout the country, killing seven thus far and displacing thousands.
There is an added twist: Boko Haram is fighting South African mercenaries, largely led by white veterans of the apartheid military, who have taken the fight to the terrorist group as Nigeria’s army has failed to do, and as other countries have declined to do. Shunned and outlawed, South African mercenaries have taken the world’s worst and toughest military assignments–guarding government buildings in Iraq, guarding beseiged African capitals, and fighting Islamic terrorists.
The xenophobia in South Africa–just the latest flare-up in recent years–has sparked a stern international response, with several African nations evacuating their citizens, and some expelling South African workers. South African companies have helped fuel Africa’s economic growth by investing directly in fields as diverse as mining, telecommunications and retail throughout the continent. African workers fill gaps in the South African economy–but many are also illegal immigrants.
Many black South Africans resent foreign workers for competing with them for low-skilled jobs–often at lower wages. However, many African immigrants–legal and illegal–are often described as having a better work ethic and a more entrepreneurial attitude than locals awaiting the promises of post-apartheid wealth redistribution. In addition, many Africans feel South Africans should be more grateful for the help their country offered South Africa’s anti-apartheid leaders in exile from the 1960s through the 1990s.
The latest violence was allegedly sparked by xenophobic comments by the Zulu king and the son of the country’s president.