Nigerians wanting to leave South Africa will have to wait another day for their flight
With travel bags in tow and their young children by their sides, Nigerians living in South Africa are desperate to return to their home country and have flocked to the offices of the Consul General of Nigeria in Illovo, Johannesburg on Thursday morning.
By 07:00, the place was buzzing as a number of Nigerians stood in a queue, wanting to leave South Africa following violent unrest that ravaged parts of Gauteng over the past two weeks. It was their second day there.
At least 12 lives were lost during the violence in the province.
During a briefing in Cape Town on Tuesday, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said 10 of the 12 people who were killed were South African, News24 previously reported.
Some Nigerians told News24 that they arrived very early in the morning to be first in the queue, hoping that the offer of free flights home would finally materialise and the flight would depart from OR Tambo International Airport.
The flights, which were supposed to leave on Thursday, have now been postponed to Friday, they were told.
Some Nigerian nationals told News24 that they were even prepared to sleep outside the offices of the Consul General of Nigeria until they were ferried to the airport on Friday.
"It is just a single day left. I can't wait to leave this country. I want to return home alive - not in a coffin," said Solomon Michael.
Michael arrived in South Africa a year ago to pursue his soccer career.
However, after undergoing several trials at various professional teams, he was unsuccessful and ended up opening a hair salon in Cosmo City.
"People in Cosmo City welcomed and accepted me with warm hands. I was living freely with them until xenophobic attacks flared up. Fearing for my life, I packed my bags and came here with my documents to go back home. I have left my business with my brother.
"Our parents back in Nigeria are worried about our safety and they have been calling us, pleading with us to return home. I believe that the grass will be greener back home and hopefully, there will be a soccer team that will sign [a contract with] me," he said.
Promised heaven and earth
Noimot Babatunde claimed she was lured to South Africa five years ago, by a fellow Nigerian who promised her heaven and earth.
Upon arrival in Durban, she realised that she had been lied to and was forced to find employment as a domestic worker.
Babatunde travelled by bus from Durban to Johannesburg to catch a flight back home.
She said a policewoman from Durban have her the bus fare because she was concerned about her safety in South Africa.
"That man lied to me saying he was owning companies in Durban and promised to employ me and pay a big salary. When I arrived here, things were different. He didn't even own businesses as he claimed. He took my passport and wanted to own me. I managed to escape and alerted Durban police officers who arrested him and retrieved my passport.
"The man has since been deported back to Nigeria. I then met a South African man from Durban who impregnated me. My ex-lover hates me and doesn't want anything to do with our daughter, Andiswa. Today, our daughter doesn't have a South African birth certificate, except for a proof of birth document I obtained from the hospital when she was born in 2017," she said.
Babatunde wants to go back home and start life afresh with her daughter.
"I came here thinking things will be rosy. Now, I am going back with a child that doesn't have a father. My parents in Nigeria are aware of my situation and are praying for my safe return with Andiswa," she said.
Blessing Emmanuel told News24 she was eager to return home and reunite with her two daughters. She last saw them in 2012.
"I came here in 2009 with my husband who was killed in 2012 by robbers in Johannesburg. Since his death, I have been running a small restaurant in the Johannesburg CBD. My shop was attacked and looted two weeks ago. They set it alight and took everything, including my clothes.
"I am temporarily staying with a Nigerian couple who have given me shelter, food and clothing. I want to go home and spend time with my children. I will rather die back home than to be killed by angry people who hate their fellow black people over nothing. South Africa has been turned into a violent country where life is worth nothing," she said.
Emmanuel said she had been given 620 Naira to spend for transport and food when she lands in Nigeria.