South African President,Cyril Ramaphosa, has formally apologised to the federal government over the recent xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in his country.
Ramaphosa's apology was tendered to President Muhammadu Buhari in the State House, Abuja, yesterday, by two special envoys he sent to meet with the Nigerian leader over the incidents, where other nationals living in South Africa were not spared.
The leader of the delegation, Jeffrey Radebe, told State House Correspondents that, "we met with President Buhari to convey our president's sincere and unreserved apologies over the unfortunate incidents that happened to your citizens in our country.
"Those incidents did not represent democratic environment in Africa and President Ramaphosa has asked the security agents to take charge of the situation." He said.
Radebe recalled that during the dark days of apartheid, "we leaned on Nigeria for support to end it and Murtala Mohammed, Nnamdi Azikiwe played critical roles, even students in Nigeria contributed money for the support of South Africa.
"Obviously, there is an impact of this event on the economy and that is why the president at his level deemed it necessary to send us as special envoys, so that we record appropriately what steps and measures South Africa has taken to deal with these problems.
"At the end of the day, we believe that the agenda 2063 of the Africa we want is one that will help not only South Africa but the whole of Africa to unite around that common agenda of ensuring that our people, especially young people must believe that the future of Africa is bright.
"So, it is the responsibility, therefore, not only of governments of Nigeria and South Africa but of ordinary citizens to play their part in ensuring that these incidents do not recur," Radebe said.
Radebe apologised on behalf of his resident for what he called "acts of criminality and violence" that recently occurred in his country, adding that "such do not represent our value system, nor those of the larger number of South Africans."
He said that South Africa was an integral part of Africa and was fully committed to the peace and integration of the continent.
The special envoy disclosed that 10 people died during the attacks - two Zimbabweans and eight South Africans - adding that there was no Nigerian casualty.
In his response to Ramaphosa's apologies, Buhari assured his guests that the relationship between the two countries "will be solidified," but described the xenophobic attacks as "very unfortunate."
Adesina said that Buhari went down memory lane by recalling the roles played by Nigeria in engendering majority rule in South Africa and ending the apartheid segregationist policy.
He said that the president recounted that he was a junior military officer to Generals Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo, who were military heads of state at different times in the mid to late 1970s.
According to Buhari, "going back to historical antecedents, we made great sacrifices for South Africa to become a free state. I was a junior officer to Gen. Murtala Mohammad and Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. They were not operating in a democracy, but they got Nigerians to support them in the bid to see a free South Africa.
"Our leadership was quite committed to the cause. We made sacrifices, which younger people of today may not know. During my last visit to South Africa with the late President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, it was very emotional, as Mugabe spoke about Nigeria's contribution to free South Africa," he noted.
Buhari extended appreciation to Ramaphosa for sending the envoys "to explain to us what happened in South Africa recently, leading to the killing and displacement of foreigners."
On his part, Nigeria's foreign affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, who spoke on the status of the Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa, declared that "he has not been recalled but he has been asked to come home to help in giving a comprehensive picture of events there as possible to Mr. President."
He, however, said that both countries must address the challenges of unemployment and poverty in order to attain peace in Africa.
Onyeama added that South Africa remains eternally grateful for the role Nigeria played in ending apartheid and hoped that the coming visit of the Nigerian President would solidify the relationship between the two countries.
Another 319 Nigerian Returnees Arrive Today
Meanwhile, the chairman/chief executive officer of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has announced that 319 Nigerians would be evacuated from South Africa today.
They will be airlifted by Air Peace and will arrive in Lagos in the evening.
"Also, 319 Nigerians have registered to return, they are still being documented. As the next batch comes in, we will also profile them. State governments will be communicated to and we expect the government to help them," she said.
She, therefore, appealed to affected state governments to ensure proper reintegration for their indigenes.
Dabiri-Erewa gave the update on the state of the 187 Nigerians who had earlier returned from South Africa due to the xenophobic attacks.
She told journalists in Abuja that the returnees that had been profiled according to their states, had over 30 children, stressing that those who returned were not criminals, but hard-working Nigerians who had lost everything they had ever worked for in South Africa.
She said: "Their only crime was being black and being Nigerian. We had fathers separated from their children. There is a widow with four children who just had to come home and there are already offers for scholarship to her children. We expect the state government to take responsibility for their citizens who have returned."
The NIDCOM boss gave the state analysis of the returnees' details and number of enrolled returnees as Abia 7, Anambra 13, Benue 1, Delta 15, Ebonyi 2, Edo 13, Ekiti 6, Enugu 7, Imo 28, Kogi 1, Kwara 3, Lagos 7, Ogun 30, Ondo 6, Osun 6, and Oyo 23, totalling 168 people.
Dabiri-Erewa said that "the states with the largest returnees are Ogun State, 30 and Imo 28. When they returned, everybody got a Sim card and airtime that will last for two months and some money for transportation."
She also announced that the Bank of Industry (BoI) had offered them soft loans and urged the documented returnees to contact the bank.
On the issue of the returnees not allowed into South Africa until after 10 years, she said it can't be confirmed, but stressed that whatever the matter might be, it will be resolved among the mission of the two countries, as the South African government has already sent envoy to Nigeria.
She appreciated all Nigerians who made the evacuation possible and appealed to corporate bodies to lend their support, adding that, "This is the time to show ourselves love and unity as Nigerians".
Obasanjo Urges Reconciliation Among Affected Countries
Also yesterday, former President Olusegun Obasanjo called for fence-mending and reconciliation between South Africa and the countries whose citizens were victims of xenophobia and afrophobia in South Africa.
Obasanjo stated this on Monday in a letter he wrote to the founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party in South Africa, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
Obasanjo charged the Africa Union (AU) to intervene in the xenophobia attacks in South Africa in a bid to save the continent from becoming a threat to itself.
He said: "For any African country to encourage or allow or not seriously sanction xenophobia against Africans in their country is a great disservice not only to the country where xenophobia takes place and the countries of the victims concerned, but also a great disservice to the whole of Africa and black race.
"At this juncture, there is need for fence-mending, reconciliation and wound-binding between South Africa and the countries whose citizens have been victims of xenophobia and afrophobia in South Africa.
"As a suggestion, South Africa should send emissaries to the countries concerned to explain, apologise and agree on the way forward for mutual understanding, accommodation, reconciliation, and binding the wound to promote unity, concord, and brotherhood in Africa.
"Repatriation of Nigerians from South Africa is obviously not a permanent solution. At best it is palliative. But the hurt will still remain for some time. Neither is revenge a desirable solution. Mutual understanding and acknowledgement of what needs to be done on all sides is imperative and getting down to doing them is the solution that will serve Nigeria and South Africa and indeed Africa well particularly in this era of Africa Continental Free Trade Area opportunities.
"Nigeria and South Africa must stand together to champion African cause and to jointly shepherd African development, unity, cooperation, security, and progress to make the 21st Century Africa's Century," Obasanjo said.