Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Government of South Africa has said that it shut down its High Commission in Abuja and the Consulate in Lagos because of threats against the missions staff as well as the property of South Africa in Nigeria.
The closure of the missions is the culmination of days of high tension in Nigeria following a spate of xenophobic and violent attacks on Nigerians and other foreign nationals in South Africa.
Some Nigerians have have protested the violent attacks by targeting South African owned businesses and property in Nigeria.
In a statement issued by the South African Department of International Relation and Cooperation, which was made available to Daily Sun in Abuja by the acting South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Bobby Moroe, the South African Minister of International Relation and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, expressed disappointment over the decision to shut down the missions.
Pandor said that both offices were in fact closed on Tuesday, following concerns reported to the Minister by officials at both missions.
“This followed the receipt of threats against the mission staff, as well as the property of South Africa. After extensive consultations with relevant stakeholders, as well as a security assessment of threats, the Mission and the Department took the decision to close the offices.
“At this point, there has been no direct physical threat to any of our diplomats and citizens, however, we view their safety as a priority and have thus taken the precautionary measure of closing, while the situation remains somewhat unpredictable,” Pandor said.
Pandor further expressed displeasure at misleading reports circulating on social media about a direct physical attack on the acting head of mission.
She said the reports were totally false, as there were reports of vandalism at the High Commission in Abuja and the Consulate in Lagos.
“Our acting head of mission is in constant communication with the department and with the authorities in Nigeria, who are providing extra security at South African offices. The department has received reports of marches by demonstrators to South African companies, as well as attempts to attack them. We are commutating with businesses that have branches in Nigeria and have requested their senior managers to remain in close contact with the department and the ministry.
“It is established tradition in foreign policy that diplomatic missions should enjoy protection from the host country and while we remain perturbed at the threats directed at our missions, we are grateful to note that the security forces and the government of Nigeria are upholding this long-established practice of foreign policy,” Pandor added.
Pandor also confirmed that her directive to the mission that links be encouraged between the youths of South Africa and Nigeria and that the Nigerian student association should be invited to visit South Africa has been fruitful.
She also acknowledged that the meetings held at the mission with the students organisation and a committee was established to continue the dialogue and work on the detail of the proposed visit.
“The department and the ministry will remain in constant contact with our representatives and will continue to assess the situation on the ground and provide a feedback as new information becomes available.
“The minister is planning to meet the African Heads of Mission to South Africa as early as next week,” the South African government stated.