Johannesburg — NIGERIANS living in South Africa are demanding participation in future elections in the Southern African country.
The foreign nationals argue their economy is contributing a significant percentage to the South African economy of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) via the number of South African multinational firms operating in Nigeria.
Nigerians interviewed by CAJ News over the weekend argued that South African companies were raking billions of dollars from Nigeria into South Africa yet Nigerians living in South Africa were not allowed to make any meaningful contribution towards policy formulation as well as representing its people (Nigerians) in the country.
MTN, Multichoice, Mr Price, Checkers, Pick & Pay, Standard Bank and South Africa Airways, among others, have operations in Nigeria.
MTN owns 52 percent of Nigeria's mobile telecommunications market share, Multichoice's DSTV boasts a 90 percent of Nigeria's satellite television while franchises such as Nandos, Chicken Republic and St. Elmos account for an estimated 50 percent fast food consumption share in Nigeria.
“The South African government must allow Nigerians living in this country (SA) to contest in parliamentary, ward council, provincial legislature, even the mayoral elections for those top positions.
"Apart from having a sizeable Nigerian constituency living in South Africa, this country (South Africa) must allow our citizens to be party of policy makers in parliament because we (Nigerians) contribute slightly above 15 percent of the country's GDP,” claimed Ikela Ikechukwu, who runs a Small-to-Medium Enterprise (SME) in Yeoville.
Ola Uche of Hillbrow echoed his compatriot's sentiment.
“The South African government must treat this call as a matter of urgency, otherwise some of us here would have loved to contest in the forthcoming elections to take in May.
"We (Nigerians) have every reason why we should be allowed a certain quota in the South African parliament just like the quota set aside for South Africa's disabled people......this is the same quota that we also want as Nigerians," Uche said.
Several Nigerian business people who have invested into properties, retail, technology, publishing and motoring said the idea to have a quota set aside for Nigerians to contest elections was “feasible” and “genuine.”
“Facts are there for everyone to see, so there is no reason why we (Nigerians) should be denied the right to be in SA parliament representing our own people here.
"The SA government wants jobs, of which we have created thousands of jobs for South Africans as well through our companies in local cities.
It is not everyone from outside South Africa that comes looking for jobs. Others come to create job opportunities,” Udoka Ngozi said.
There were no immediate comments from both the SA and Nigerian governments.
However, Lerato Ramaphosa of Alexander in Joburg, said the Nigerians' proposals were "asking too much" insisting such proposals should not be allowed to take place.
"We have allowed the Nigerians to do business freely with us in a smart partnership, so why would they want to invade our parliament?
"....that must not be allowed to happen, otherwise we (South Africans) would have sold our country to foreigners," Ramaphosa said.
Commenting further, South Africa's Mamello Mogale, who owns a spaza shot in Katlehong, said the Nigerians' demand should not be accepted arguing that they would have set a wrong precedence to other nations living in the country.
"What Nigerians are saying is like for SA to demand to have MPs (Members of Parliament) in both Lagos or Abuja........that will not work?
"I'm sure their decisions were rushed and thought irresponsibly," Mogale said.
Nigeria has a population of 170 million with its GDP standing at $268.8 billion while South Africa's population is estimated at 52 million with a GDP of $375.9 billion.