President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, yesterday, dispatched three special envoys to Nigeria and six other African countries to deliver messages of pan-African unity and solidarity, following xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
This is even as Chairman of Air Peace Airline, Allen Onyema, weekend said the airline has not suspended evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa, but is waiting for the Nigerian High Commission in that country to get all the necessary documentations and papers for the next batch of Nigerians to be evacuated.
The special envoys, according to South African presidential spokesman, Khusela Diko, will deliver a message from 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.
According to him, the envoys will reassure fellow African countries that South Africa is committed to the ideals of pan-African unity and solidarity, and also reaffirm South Africa's commitment to the rule of law.
The envoys will visit Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, according to Diko.
"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," he said.
South Africa has been hit by a new wave of violence in the past few weeks, which has led to the killing of 12 persons, including 10 South Africans.
South Africa is host to some 274,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from African countries, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Xenophobia-related attacks are common in South Africa, where foreigners are blamed for taking up employment that should have been taken by locals.
It was learned that the decision of the South African President to send the envoys on the trouble-shooting mission was informed by the fact that he was booed by the crowd at the burial ceremony of former Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, in Harare on Saturday.
The jeers from the crowd, it was learned, was a result of the xenophobic attacks on Africans, including those from Nigeria, Zimbabwe and other countries by the locals.
Reacting to the jeers, Ramaphosa said: "I will like to say to the people of Zimbabwe that in the last two weeks, we as South Africans, have been going through a challenging period. We have had acts of violence erupting in some parts of our country and some of which were directed at our brothers in other African countries.
"This has led to the death of some people, some of whom are nationals of other countries and majority are from South Africa. I stand before you as a fellow African to express my regrets and to apologise for what has happened in our country.
"What has happened in South Africa goes against the principles of the unity of African peoples that President Mugabe, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and leaders of our continent stood for."
... blasts attackers
Meanwhile, speaking at the Grace Bible Church in Pimville, Soweto, yesterday, President Ramaphosa lashed out at those perpetrating violent attacks against foreign nationals and those demolishing public and private property when demonstrating.
His address came after he was booed when he spoke at the funeral of former Zimbabwe President, Robert Mugabe on Saturday.
He said the nation should reflect deeply about the attacks targeting foreign nationals, which have thus far claimed the lives of 10 South Africans and two foreign nationals.
A number of businesses belonging to South Africans and foreign nationals have also been destroyed in attacks that started a month ago in Soweto when shops belonging to foreign nationals were looted.
The attacks escalated three weeks ago after the death of taxi driver, Jabu Baloyi, who was shot dead by a suspected drug dealer.
Taxi drivers in Pretoria were demonstrating against those selling drugs in the capital city, while trucks driven by foreign nationals were gutted, especially in Durban.
Ramaphosa said South Africans needed to display leadership as this was the expectation from the continent.
"I am even ashamed to call it xenophobia because as South Africans, we are not xenophobic," he said.
He said the country should take a stand against the attacks as they could mutate into tribalism, saying "we must defeat the demon of tribalism. We must defeat the demon xenophobia and say South Africans are not xenophobic, South Africans are not tribalistic."
After delivering the speech, Ramaphosa, belted out the hymn, 'The Holy Spirit must come down, then Africa will be Saved'. When the choir climbed onto the stage, Ramaphosa even went to lead the choir.
"I didn't know you could sing, Mr President. I also didn't know you could conduct a choir as well, Mr President," said Grace Bible Church presiding bishop, Mosa Sono.
Sue S-African govt now, says Bolaji Akinyemi, adds SA govt condones attacks
Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, has asked the Federal Government to drag its South African counterpart to court for the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians.
Akinyemi in a statement, yesterday, argued that utterances from public office holders and their leaders further indicated that the attacks on Nigerians and others were condoned by the country.
"I have come to the conclusion that the Xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other immigrants are acts sponsored or condoned by the South African state.
"I, therefore, call on Nigeria to sue South Africa before the International Court of Justice, ICJ, for failure in its duty of care and protection of Nigerian citizens resident there.
"I furthermore call on Nigeria to file complaints against specific South African officials at the International Criminal Court for aiding and abetting the xenophobic attacks," he said.
He noted that the acts of some specific citizens and the government negated articles of international conventions.
Listing the articles, Akinyemi said: "Article 2, paragraph 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Article 2, paragraph 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Also, United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination."
The former Foreign Affairs Minister added that South Africa's action further violated "the International Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers".
Citing instances, he said: "The anti-immigrant acts by the South African Immigration service officials, for all practical purposes, amount to holding Nigerian immigrants hostage by refusing to allow them to be evacuated.
"The statement credited to Dr. Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor, South African Minister of International Relations, that Nigerians are drug dealers, the statement credited to Deputy Police Minister, Bongani Mkongi, that they fought for their land and that that land would not be surrendered to immigrants.
"The statement credited to the South African Defence Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, that South Africa is an angry nation and that the country could not prevent the xenophobic attacks."
He noted that the various statements credited to South African diplomats blaming the immigrants further showed reasons the country must be prosecuted.
Air Peace Airline hasn't suspended evacuation of Nigerians -- Onyema
Meanwhile, Chairman of Air Peace airline, Allen Onyema, said weekend that the airline has not suspended the evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa.
He said Air Peace was waiting for the Nigerian High Commission in that country to get all the necessary documentations and papers for the next batch of Nigerians that would be taken out of the former apartheid country to resume evacuation.
Reports from the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa indicate that about 1,000 Nigerians are still willing to return home.
Onyema said: "I said it earlier that Air Peace will bring back to our country those Nigerians who are willing to return and we will continue to bring them back until the last evacuee is taken out of South Africa.
"I learned from the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa that about 1,000 Nigerians are willing to return home. So what Air Peace has agreed with the High Commission is that when it finishes with documentation, settled with immigration, it will notify Air Peace which will deploy aircraft to bring them back.
"This is to avoid what happened last time when 320 passengers were expected to be airlifted but South African authorities allowed only187 to make the flight."
Recall that after the frustrating antics of South African authorities, the first batch of 187 Nigerians finally returned last Wednesday aboard Air Peace plane from South Africa.
The Boeing 777 plane which airlifted the evacuees, touched down at about 9.40 pm at the Cargo wing of the Muritala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.