South African President,Cyril Ramaphosa, has formally apologised to the federal government over the recent xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in his country.
Ramaphosa’s apology was tendered to President Muhammadu Buhari in the State House, Abuja, yesterday, by two special envoys he sent to meet with the Nigerian leader over the incidents, where other nationals living in South Africa were not spared.
The leader of the delegation, Jeffrey Radebe, told State House Correspondents that, “we met with President Buhari to convey our president’s sincere and unreserved apologies over the unfortunate incidents that happened to your citizens in our country.
“Those incidents did not represent democratic environment in Africa and President Ramaphosa has asked the security agents to take charge of the situation.” He said.
Radebe recalled that during the dark days of apartheid, “we leaned on Nigeria for support to end it and Murtala Mohammed, Nnamdi Azikiwe played critical roles, even students in Nigeria contributed money for the support of South Africa.
“Obviously, there is an impact of this event 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 South Africa has taken to deal with these problems.
“At the end of the day, we believe that the agenda 2063 of the Africa we want is one that will help not only South Africa but the whole of Africa to unite around that common agenda of ensuring that our people, especially young people must believe that the future of Africa is bright.
“So, 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 recur,” Radebe said.
Radebe apologised on behalf of his resident for what he called “acts of criminality and violence” that recently occurred in his country, adding that “such do not represent our value system, nor those of the larger number of South Africans.”
He said that South Africa was an integral part of Africa and was fully committed to the peace and integration of the continent.
The special envoy disclosed that 10 people died during the attacks – two Zimbabweans and eight South Africans – adding that there was no Nigerian casualty.
In his response to Ramaphosa’s apologies, Buhari assured his guests that the relationship between the two countries “will be solidified,” but described the xenophobic attacks as “very unfortunate.”
Adesina said that Buhari went down memory lane by recalling the roles played by Nigeria in engendering majority rule in South Africa and ending the apartheid segregationist policy.
He said that the president recounted that he was a junior military officer to Generals Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo, who were military heads of state at different times in the mid to late 1970s.
According to Buhari, “going back to historical antecedents, we made great sacrifices for South Africa to become a free state. I was a junior officer to Gen. Murtala Mohammad and Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. They were not operating in a democracy, but they got Nigerians to support them in the bid to see a free 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 of Zimbabwe, it was very emotional, as Mugabe spoke about Nigeria’s contribution to free South Africa,” he noted.
Buhari extended appreciation to Ramaphosa for sending the envoys “to explain to us what happened in South Africa recently, leading to the killing and displacement of foreigners.”
On his part, Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, who spoke on the status of the Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa, declared that “he has not been recalled but he has been asked to come home to help in giving a comprehensive picture of events there as possible to Mr. President.”
He, however, said that both countries must address the challenges of unemployment and poverty in order to attain peace in Africa.
Onyeama added that South Africa remains eternally grateful for the role Nigeria played in ending apartheid and hoped that the coming visit of the Nigerian President would solidify the relationship between the two countries.