MTN SIM card sellers wait for customers at a roadside kiosk in Lagos. Photo: Bloomberg
JOHANNESBURG – Mobile phone company MTN, the second-largest investor on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), on Tuesday beefed up security in Nigeria following the sporadic xenophobic attacks that saw the looting of local and foreign-owned shops in Gauteng.

MTN said it had increased security as a precaution following the violence in the country.

"MTN Nigeria is working with local authorities and has increased security as a precaution following the violence in South Africa. While there has not been very major disruptions to the operation, we have taken the necessary measures to safeguard the safety and security of our customers and staff. We are continuing to monitor the situation on an on-going basis,” said Nompilo Morafo, MTN group executive for corporate affairs.

The move comes as South African companies remained on the edge across the continent as violent flare-ups in the country threatened trade in the continent.

The attacks come just hours before South Africa hosts the World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa edition in Cape Town today.

African Union chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and Nigerian and Zambian officials also expressed outrage at the attacks. South Africa is heavily invested in the continent with local groups such as Shoprite and Spar controlling trillions of rands worth of exposure across Africa.

Reports emerged that trade at the crucial Beitbridge border post had halted. The post is used by most African countries to take their goods to South Africa’s ports, particularly Durban, the continent’s largest export harbour.

MTN distanced itself from the violence and led the condemnation of the attacks of foreign-owned businesses in the country.

“As MTN we strongly condemn prejudice and xenophobia and we reiterate our unequivocal condemnation of any and all violence,” the company said.

WEF, which will tackle the issues faced by the continent, is expected to attract leaders including Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

In May, MTN Nigeria listed on the NSE, making MTN the first mobile network operator to list on the NSE.

“We actively encourage the dialogue necessary to maintain peace and sustain strong relationships and urge all our customers and stakeholders to support and defend the principles of human rights, diversity and inclusion, and an integrated collaborative Africa,” MTN said.

The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) also raised concerns about the civil disobedience which had resulted in the destruction of property, looting of shops and general inconvenience to both businesses and ordinary lives of citizens.

“In many cases, there has been an element of criminality which CGCSA is calling for urgent intervention by the police. The civil disobedience is affecting the image of South Africa as an investment and tourism destination at a time when international investors are in the country attending the WEF for Africa in Cape Town,” it said.

CGCSA said retailer members had not been directly affected so far.

“We are concerned about the apparent total disregard of law and damage to business property and we urge the SAPS to ensure that all perpetrators are apprehended with a view to successfully prosecuting them,” said CGCSA.

The looting and setting alight of shops in Johannesburg comes as violence in the trucking fraternity continued unabated, with two trucks set alight on the N3 northbound in the Mooi River area late on Monday.

Gavin Kelly, the chief executive of the Road Freight Association, said members were concerned about the safety of their employees and assets.

BUSINESS REPORT