‘Nigerians overreacted over xenophobia’ – SA tells special envoy

Outside the Consulate General of Nigeria. Picture: Cebile Ntuli/City Press
Outside the Consulate General of Nigeria. Picture: Cebile Ntuli/City Press

The Nigerian special envoy leaves South Africa having “understood the overreaction by their country” over xenophobic violence and a challenge thrown back at them to do their part in addressing the international immigration challenge.

This is according to department of international relations and cooperation spokesperson, Clayson Monyela, who said engagements with the envoy also ensured that diplomatic ties between South Africa and Nigeria remains intact.

The envoy was sent to meet President Cyril Ramaphosa by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari with a mandate to “share our deep concern about the security of Nigerian lives and property in South Africa, and to ensure that the South African government is doing everything within its power in this regard”.

They go back to Nigeria with a special envoy sent by Ramaphosa to their country.

The Presidency announced on Sunday that a team of special envoys departed on Saturday to deliver messages of solidarity to heads of states and governments across Africa.

“The team, comprising of Mr Jeff Radebe, Ambassador Kingsley Mmabolo and Dr Khulu Mbatha will visit Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. The Special Envoys are tasked with reassuring fellow African countries that South Africa is committed to the ideals of pan-African unity and solidarity. The Special Envoys will also reaffirm South Africa’s commitment to the rule of law,” Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Monyela said the Nigerian special envoy was, during engagements with South Africa, given the “facts” and told that “they are mostly reacting to fake news”.

“Ten out of the 12 people killed during the public violence are South Africans and two Zimbabweans. They were told ‘not a single Nigerian was killed yet your country is the most vocal’,” Monyela said.

“A challenge was thrown back at them to play their part in addressing the big challenge of international migration. The problem is that sending countries do not help much in creating a conducive environment that will not force citizens to leave their countries in droves and only speak out when there is a problem in the receiving country.

“It is a problem not only South Africa but in the UK, US and other countries which are overburdened with the responsibility of hosting foreign nationals.”

Monyela said Dirco will push for international migration to be an agenda item at the next African Union summit and to be discussed further at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the United Nations “so that nobody points fingers whenever we have flare-ups”.

Meanwhile, City Press reported last week that the Nigerian special envoy was among others going to push for the South African government to compensate its citizens for the loss of life, property or injuries sustained during the mayhem.

Nigerian foreign affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, took to Twitter last week on this matter: “There has to be accountability and responsibility for compensating Nigerians who have suffered. We are going to absolutely push for that.”

Monyela confirmed this issue was raised but quickly died down after South Africa explained its position.

“We said to them, in South Africa we expected businesses to be registered and pay tax and that they should advise those affected to produce all the documents so we can help them claim from insurances as it is also expected of businesses to take liability insurance,” Monyela said.

He said they were also made aware of South African businesses like MTN and Shoprite that were attacked, vandalised and looted in Nigeria.

“There were those reprisal attacks on South African businesses, and we told them: ‘if you raise compensation, we will also raise it in your country,’” Monyela said.

He said Dirco was going to send a special convoy to Nigeria and other states to explain South Africa’s position on issues including international migration and seek their cooperation on the subject.

Monyela said diplomatic ties with Nigeria were not under threat.

“Diplomatic ties remain strong. This is why Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is still coming to South Africa on a state visit from October 3,” he said.

“Nigeria and South Africa are the biggest economies on the continent and any squabble between the two does not help Africa.”

Attempts to get hold of the Nigerian government, – including foreign affairs minister, Onyeama, who promised to speak to City Press this week – drew a blank.

Onyeama, however, tweeted on Wednesday in reaction to the arrival of a group of Nigerians voluntarily repatriated from South Africa: “Let me also appeal to Nigerians in South Africa to remain calm ... and patient as the Federal Government is engaging relevant stakeholders towards finding permanent measures to stop the crisis.”

Poloko Tau
City Press
p:+27 11 713 9001
w:www.citypress.co.za  e: poloko.tau@citypress.co.za
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