South African President Cyril Ramaphosa special envoy, Jeff Radebe said that the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians is beginning to impact negatively on the country’s economy, hence the need for diplomatic intervention in order to stem the tide.
Addressing State House correspondents shortly after a closed- door meeting with the Nigerian president,he said“There is an impact of these events on the economy, and that is why the president at his level deemed it necessary to send us as special envoys so that we record appropriately what steps and measures we are making as South Africa to deal with these methods.
“We believe that the agenda 2063 for the Africa we want is one that will help not only South Africa but the whole of the continent to unite around that common goal of ensuring that our people, especially young people, believe that the future of Africa is bright.
“It is the responsibility, therefore, not only of governments of Nigeria and South Africa but of ordinary citizens to play their part in ensuring, that these incidents do not reoccur.”
Radebe explained that the South African government was already on top of the situation with specific instructions to the security agencies to apprehend the culprits.
“He (Ramaphosa) has also instructed law enforcement agencies to leave no stone unturned in ensuring that all those involved are brought to book so that the rule of law can prevail in South Africa.”
On the need to ensure that both countries continue to play a critical role in the rebuilding of Africa to attain the agenda 2063, the envoy said the meeting with President Buhari afforded them the opportunity to recall with fond memories the historical ties that existed between Nigeria and South Africa, especially 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 making sure that apartheid is ended. 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 head of state, Gen. Murtala Mohammed, who played a key role, and of course one of the founding fathers of the Nigerian nation, President Nnamdi Azikiwe.
“The crisis must serve as an opportunity for us to make sure that the scourge of unemployment, poverty, and inequality in the whole of Africa is attended to by our leaders.
“We also expressed the President Ramaphosa’s wish that when President Buhari would pay his state visit to South Africa on the 3rd of October, the bi-mission commission that exists between the two governments, and has now been elevated, will serve as a forum to address all issues of mutual concern about South Africa and Nigeria.”
On Nigeria’s insistence on compensation to the 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 in the draft the Nigerian government has presented to South Africa.
“We should wait until October 3rd to see how that unfolds. But I can indicate, as a lawyer, that the South African laws require 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.”
The special envoy said the law enforcement agencies were working day and night to apprehend all those involved in the unfortunate incidents.
“I’m told that more than 50 people have been arrested thus far. 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 steps against the menace 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 coincided with periods when the economy is experiencing tough times in our country. As you know, we are still emerging from the system of apartheid, where the last unemployment rate was around 29 percent.
“It seems to us that some of these incidents occur in areas where there are poverty, unemployment, and fight for scarce resources. But no amount of hunger or hardship justifies the looting of property, killing of people, whether they are South Africans or foreigners. We regard that as an act of criminality.”