Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa has apologized to Nigeria over the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
This is even as the issue of compensation and restitution for victims of xenophobic attacks will be part of the agenda of the
President Muhammadu Buhari and President Ramaphosa when they meet in South Africa on October 3rd.
The apology was tendered to President Buhari in the State House, Abuja by the two special envoys, Mr. Jeff Radebe and Dr Khulu Mbatha, a special adviser to the president on international relations, he despatched to
Abuja over the increasing xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other Africans living in South Africa.
In a joint press conference at the State House with Minister if Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, Radebe, said: “We met a short while ago with His Excellency, President Buhari, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to convoy our President, Ramaphosa’s sincerest apologies about the incident that have recently transpired in South Africa. Those incidents do not represent what we stand for as a constitutional democracy in South Africa and the President has apologized for these incidents.
“He has also instructed law enforcement agencies to leave no stone unturned that all those involved must be brought to book, so that the rule of law must prevail in South Africa.
“He also conveyed his fond memories of ensuring that both Nigeria and South Africa must continue to play a critical role in the rebuilding of Africa to attend the agenda 2063, the Africa that we want.
“We have also recalled with fond memories the historical times that exit between Nigeria and South Africa during the dark days of apartheid, we always knew that the Nigerian people and their government always stood behind our leaders who were fighting against the obnoxious system of apartheid. Even Nigerian families contributed to make sure that apartheid is ended and even though Nigeria is far from South Africa, it was regarded as the frontline state because of the principled stand that all leaders of Nigeria made to end the system of apartheid.
“We also remember among others a president Murtala Mohammed, who played a key role and of course the founding father of the Nigerian nation, President Nnamdi Azikiwe.
“So, we believe that the crisis as the minister has just described must serve as an opportunity for us to make sure that the scotch of unemployment, poverty and inequality in the whole of Africa must be attended to by our leaders.
“We also expressed the President’s wish that when his excellency, President Buhari pay his state visit to South Africa on the 3rd of October, the bi-mission commission that exist between the two governments that has now been elevated to the heads of state which will serve as a forum to address all those issues of mutual concern about South Africa and Nigeria.
“I’m very happy to have been here to convey this message to President Buhari and leave with very good information that President Buhari has conveyed to us to take back to President Ramaphosa.”
On Nigeria’s insistence on the compensation to victims of the attacks, Radebe said, “during President Buhari’s state visit to South Africa, there will be detailed discussions which will be held there. I do understand that the issue of compensation, restitution is part of the agenda items in the draft the Nigerian government has presented to the South Africa. So I think we should wait until October 3rd to see how that unfolds. But I can indicate as a lawyer that the South African laws requires that all registered companies must have public insurance in terms of things of this nature. But like I said that meeting will just be held.”
On the numbers of those apprehended who attacked foreign nationals in the country, the South African special envoy said: “The law enforcement agencies are working day and night to apprehend all those involved in this unfortunate incidents. I’m told that more than 50 people have been arrested thus far. I think let’s wait until the whole issue has been resolved. It is a security cluster led by the minister of Defence as well as the minister of police that are working around the clock to make sure that all those that are alleged to be involved in these incidents are brought to book.”
On why it took the South Africa so look to take this step since xenophobia is not a recent development, Radebe said: “This incident has been happening from time to time. I do recall recently that around 2008, it always concede with economic tough times in our country. As you know we are still emerging from the system of apartheid, where according to states SA the last unemployment rate was around 29 percent.
“It seems to us that some of these incidents occur in areas where there is poverty, unemployment and fight for scares resources. 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.
“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 envoy, so that we record appropriately what steps and measures we will be making as South Africa to deal with these methods. At the end of the day, we believe that the agenda 2063, 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 parts in ensuring, that these incidents do not reoccur.”
Onyeama on his part while speaking on if the Nigerian ambassador to South Africa has been recalled said, “he has not been recalled but he has been asked to come just to help in giving a comprehensive picture of events there as possible to Mr. President.”