Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Xenophobia: S/Africa apologises to Nigeria

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By Muideen Olaniyi

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has apologised to Nigeria over the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other African citizens.

Ramaphosa’s apologies were conveyed to President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, yesterday by his Special Envoy to Nigeria, Mr Jett Radebe.

Radebe, who apologised on behalf of his president for what he called “acts of criminality and violence” that recently occurred, said “such do not represent our value system, nor those of the larger number of South Africans.”

According to a statement by Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Radebe said that South Africa was ‘fully’ committed to peace and integration of the continent as it was an integral part of Africa.

The special envoy said 10 people, including two Zimbabweans and eight South Africans, died during the attacks, adding that there was no Nigerian casualty.

Radebe, who said South Africa remained ‘eternally grateful’ for the role Nigeria played in ending apartheid, expressed hope that the coming visit of President Buhari on October 3, 2019 would solidify relationship between the two countries once again.

During the meeting with the South African delegation yesterday, President Buhari recalled roles played by Nigeria in engendering majority rule in South Africa and ending the apartheid segregationist policy.

The president said 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.

“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 Muhammad, 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, it was very emotional, as Mugabe spoke about Nigeria’s contribution to free South Africa,” he also said.

The president also thanked President Ramaphosa, through the special envoy, “for coming to explain to us what happened in South Africa recently, leading to killing and displacement of foreigners.”

President Buhari, who reacted to profuse apologies from the South African President, promised that relationship between the two countries “will be solidified”.

He described the xenophobic attacks as “very unfortunate.”

While speaking with journalists after meeting with President Buhari, the special envoy said the law enforcement agencies had been instructed to leave no stone unturned to ensure that all those involved were brought to book.

Radebe said the existing bi-mission commission of the two governments had now been elevated to serve as a forum to address all issues of mutual concern about South Africa and Nigeria.

On the demand for compensation to victims of the attacks, the envoy said there would be detailed discussions during President Buhari’s state visit to South Africa.

Radebe, who said not less than 50 people had been arrested in connection with the attacks, observed that the incidents, which were prevalent in areas where there is poverty, unemployment and fight for scarce resources, usually “coincide with economic tough times”.

“But having said that, no amount of hunger, hardship justifies the looting of property, killings of people whether they are South Africans or foreigners. We regard that as an act of criminality.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the Nigerian ambassador to South Africa was not recalled.

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