Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, has apologised 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 for President Muhammadu Buhari and President Ramaphosa when they meet in South Africa on October 3.
The apology was tendered to President Buhari in State House, Abuja, by the two special envoys, Mr. Jeff Radebe and Dr. Khulu Mbatha, special adviser to the President on international relations, that President Ramaphosa despatched to Abuja over the increasing xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other Africans living in South Africa.
In a joint press conference with Minister if Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, at the State House, Radebe said: “We met a short while ago with His Excellency, President Buhari, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to convey our President Ramaphosa’s sincerest apologies about the incidents that have recently transpired in South Africa. These incidents do not represent what we stand for as a constitutional democracy in South Africa and the President has apologised 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 (hopes) of ensuring that both Nigeria and South Africa must continue to play a critical role in the rebuilding of Africa to attain the agenda 2063, the Africa that we want.
“We have also recalled with fun memories the historical ties that exist 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 Muhammed, 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 scourge 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, pays 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 of 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 South Africa. So, I think we should wait until October 3 to see how that unfolds. But I can indicate, as a lawyer, that South African law 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 number of those apprehended for the attacks, the South African special envoy said: “The law enforcement agencies are working day and night to apprehend all those involved in these unfortunate incidents. I am 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 South Africa so long 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 coincides with economic tough times in our country. As you know, we are still emerging from the system of apartheid, where according to statistics, the last unemployment rate was around 29 per cent.