Xenophobia: Nigerian Government Delegation in South Africa over attacks
South Africa’s foreign minister on Monday briefed a high-level Nigerian delegation about the government’s response to recent anti-immigrant attacks which nearly strained relations between the two power houses on the continent.
Recent attacks saw homes of migrants, especially Nigerians, burned down and shops looted amid accusations of involvement in crime and taking of local jobs.
“I highlighted the South African government’s condemnation of these incidents, and emphasized that no single death has occurred during this unfortunate period,” Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told reporters in Pretoria after concluding talks with her Nigerian counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama.
The Nigerian delegation included Interior Minister (Rtd) Gen. Abdurrahman Bello Dambazau and Martin Cobham, Nigeria’s Acting High Commissioner to South Africa.
Mashabane assured her counterpart that the government was fully in control of the situation.
“Several interventions including meetings with diplomatic community, security operations, policy and legislation reviews were taking place,” she said.
Mashabane also refuted claims that the recent attacks only targeted Nigerian nationals, saying other African migrants — numbering over 3 million according to unofficial reports — were also affected.
Onyeama, for his part, said they had agreed to form a committee consisting of government officials from both countries as well as business and civil society groups to review early signs of tension.
He said the committee would meet every three months to assess any brewing tensions.
The two foreign ministers also expressed satisfaction with the economic cooperation between their countries as evidenced by increasing trade volumes, as well as private sector investments.
They also noted and welcomed Nigerian businesses that have entered the South African market.
There are more than 120 South African businesses operating in Nigeria in fields such as telecommunications, mining, and aviation among others.
The recent attacks tested the relations between the two countries which enjoy good bilateral ties and cooperation in many fields including trade and investment, energy, mining, and defense.
Last month, a student group in Nigeria issued an ultimatum on South Africans in the country to leave if anti-immigrant attacks did not end in Africa’s most advanced economy.
Other Nigerian groups also called for closure of South African businesses in their country, including telecom giant MTN South Africa.
There are nearly 800,000 Nigerians residing in South Africa, according to the Nigerian Union of South Africa.