A formal apology was tendered to Nigeria on Monday by the President of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, over the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in his country.
He said the ugly incidents did not represent the values his country cherished.
Ramaphosa’s apology was delivered to President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja by a special envoy he sent with his Nigerian counterpart.
The envoy, Mr Jeff Radebe, came to see Buhari in company with the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Bobby Monroe, and two other officials.
Speaking with State House Correspondents after the meeting, Radebe said, “We met with President Buhari to convey President Ramaphosa’s sincerest apologies about the incidents that have recently transpired in South Africa.
“The 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 to bring those involved to book.
“He (Ramaphosa) also conveyed his resolve of ensuring that both Nigeria and South Africa continued to play a critical role in the rebuilding of Africa to attend the agenda 2063; the Africa that we want.
“We also recalled with fun memories the historical times that exit between Nigeria and South Africa. During the dark days of apartheid, we knew that the Nigerian people and their government stood behind our leaders, who were fighting against the obnoxious system of apartheid.”
He noted that leaders on the African continent must use the crisis as an opportunity to “make sure that the scourge of unemployment, poverty and inequality in Africa is attended to by our leaders.”
Radebe added that during Buhari’s planned visit to South Africa on October 3, the two leaders would take advantage of the existing Bi-Mission Commission to “address all those issues of mutual concern about South Africa and Nigeria.”
When asked whether South would pay compensation to Nigerians whose property were either looted or set ablaze, the envoy replied that such issues would be tackled during Buhari’s visit.
He explained, “During President Buhari’s state visit to South Africa, there will be discussions there. I do understand that the issue of compensation and restitution is part of the agenda.
“We should wait until October 3 to see how that unfolds. But, I can indicate that as a lawyer, the South African laws require that all registered companies must have public insurance in terms of things of this nature.”
He added that up to 50 suspects had been arrested and would be prosecuted accordingly.
Speaking on why it took South Africa long time to address xenophobia, he said, “These incidents have been happening from time to time. 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.
“Some of these incidents occur in areas where there is poverty, unemployment and fight for scarce resources. But 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.”
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On the impact of the crisis on the economy of South Africa, he stated, “Obviously, there is an impact of this event on the economy and that is why the President has deemed it necessary to send us so that we record appropriately the steps and measures to deal with these methods.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, said Nigeria’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Kabiru Bala, was back home.
He said, “He (Onyeama) has not been recalled, but he has been asked to give a comprehensive picture of events there as possible to Mr President.”
The Presidency, in a statement, said Buhari at the meeting, recalled Nigeria’s sacrifices in securing democratic rule in South Africa.
“Our leadership was quite committed to the cause. We made sacrifices, which younger people of today may not know. During my last visit to South Africa with the late President Robert Mugabe, it was very emotional, as Mugabe spoke about Nigeria’s contributions to free South Africa,” the statement read in part.
The statement added that the envoy insisted that no Nigerian died in the recent crisis, contrary to earlier reports.
They reportedly said the dead were 10 in number, two Zimbabweans and eight South Africans.