South Africa Moves to Mend Fences With Nigeria

South African and Nigerian flag.
16 September 2019

In a bid to mend fences with Nigeria and other African countries whose nationals were affected by recent xenophobic attacks, South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa has concluded plans to send special envoys to President Muhammadu Buhari and his counterparts from six other countries.

Top officials of the South African government revealed that the special envoys would deliver messages of solidarity to several heads of state and governments across Africa amid tensions and violence in the country.

In a statement issued yesterday by South African government, its spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said: "The special envoys will deliver a message from President Ramaphosa regarding the incidents of violence that recently erupted in some parts of South Africa, which have manifested in attacks on foreign nationals and destruction of property."

Giko said that the special envoys were tasked with "reassuring fellow African countries that South Africa is committed to the ideals of pan-African unity and solidarity."

Members of the team of special envoys include Jeff Radebe, Ambassador Kingsley Mmabolo, and Dr Khulu Mbatha, who are expected to visit Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia.

Xenophobic attacks broke out in recent weeks in South Africa after a taxi driver was killed by an alleged drug dealer in Pretoria.

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa was jeered at the funeral of the late Zimbabwean leader, Robert Mugabe, at the weekend. He apologised for the attacks in his country.

The envoys will reassure fellow African countries that South Africa is committed to the ideals of pan-African unity and solidarity, Diko said.

They will also reaffirm South Africa's commitment to the rule of law.

They will brief governments in the identified African countries about the steps that the South African government is taking to bring a stop to the attacks and to hold the perpetrators to account.

At least 12 people, including 10 South Africans and two foreigners, have been killed in the spate of such violence.

South Africa is host to some 274,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from African countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Xenophobia-related attacks are common in South Africa, where foreigners are blamed for taking up employments meant for locals.

In the wake of the attacks, some angry Nigerians had trooped to the streets to protest the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other Africans in South Africa.

In Lagos and other parts of the country where the peaceful demonstrations were held, the protesters mounted sentry at the premises of some South African businesses.

A sad incident was however recorded in Lagos where a policeman allegedly killed one of the protesters at a Shoprite complex.

Following the massive protests, the minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, urged the South African authorities to do more to safeguard the life and property of Nigerians in that country.

He said that the federal government planned to deploy Nigeria Police in South Africa to stop the arson and killing of Nigerians.

Onyeama who made the disclosure in Abuja when the federal government summoned the Acting South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Bobby Moroe, lamented that there had been continuous looting and burning of property belonging to Nigerians in that country.

To have adequate information on the crisis, President Buhari had dispatched a special envoy to convey to President Ramaphosa his concerns and to also interact with him on the situation.

After receiving the envoy's report, Nigeria sent an aircraft to South Africa for the airlift of its nationals, who have voluntarily offered to leave the country.

The first batch of 178 Nigerians arrived in Lagos last week via Air Peace airline. About 640 of the 800,000 Nigerians are scheduled to return home.

A number of the returnees expressed joy at being home and condemned the violence by South African thugs which forced their decision.

Some of them displayed "No to xenophobia" placards as they descended from the flight. Amongst them were adults, teenagers and children.

Mr. Emmanuel Iyoha, a returnee, said: "I went there to South Africa when I was just six years old, I spent about 10 years there so coming back, it's a new experience so I am happy because I feel safe.

"... normally even to go to school I'm scared and all that like sometimes I can't even think when my sister is at work, so she is the one I have been thinking of since but I'm happy that I am here.

"With the whole situation, killing and looting shops and everything. I just decided no, it's time to come back home," Temilade Sotunde said.

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