South Africa is apparently peeved by the decision of Nigeria to recall its ambassador from Pretoria.
- South Africa says the decision by a ‘sisterly’ country is ‘unfortunate and regrettable’
- The Nigerian envoy was recalled on Saturday, weeks after anti-immigrant protests began
- The envoy was recalled for talks on the xenophobic attacks and safety of Nigerians
- The violence is believed to have been triggered by the influential Zulu Kings’s speech
South Africa has condemned Nigeria’s decision to recall its ambassador over a spate of attacks against foreigners.
It called the step “unfortunate and regrettable” and said it “would be curious for a sisterly country to want to exploit such a painful episode”.
At least seven people have died over a month of attacks on foreigners and foreign-owned property in South Africa.
Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini has been blamed for sparking the attacks with comments about foreign workers.
Zwelithini reportedly said, “Let us pop our head lice. We must remove ticks and place them outside in the sun. We ask foreign nationals to pack their belongings and be sent back,” a statement he claimed was misinterpreted by the media.
Some blamed the attacks – which centred on Durban and Johannesburg – on unemployment and poor political leadership.
Thousands were displaced, with many Zimbabweans, Mozambicans, Malawians and others returning home and others taking refuge in temporary government-operated shelters.
Some governments complained that South Africa was failing to do enough to protect foreign nationals, though it now insists it has quelled the violence.
Nigeria summoned Acting High Commissioner Martin Cobham along with Consul-General, Uche Ajulu-Okeke. “for consultation” over the “ongoing xenophobia”, Minister of Foreign Affairs Aminu Wali said in a statement carried by the media on Saturday.
In its response, South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation points out that “a government resorts to such an extraordinary diplomatic step to express outrage at actions or behaviour of another government.”
The statement says South Africa has not blamed Nigeria “for the deaths and more than nine (9) months delay in the repatriation of the bodies of our fallen compatriots” in attacks by Boko Haram militants.
The statement insists that the South African government and citizens have been “decisive and unequivocal in condemning and rejecting the attacks on foreign nationals” and that “through our interventions, relative calm and order has been restored”.
South Africa deployed troops to try to quell the violence after criticism by nations including China and Zimbabwe for failing to protect their citizens against armed mobs.
On Friday, President Zuma met over 50 leaders of organisations representing foreign nationals in South Africa for talks about how to avert any repeat of the attacks.
Next week, the South African parliament is to be suspended to allow deputies to press the anti-xenophobia message in their home constituencies.
South African authorities have indicated that the South African High Commissioner in Nigeria will not be recalled in retaliation.
The spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, Clayson Monyela, says the South African government is not sure why the ambassador was recalled:
“This stage we are not sure which action by the South African government the Nigerian government is protesting. It’s important to underscore the fact that it’s only Nigeria that has taken this step. If this is in reaction to the attacks on foreign nationals in certain parts in our country, it would be very curious that a sister nation would want to exploit such an unfortunate incident in our country for whatever agenda.
Monyela says they will wait for Nigeria’s new government to take over the country next month and will only then raise the matter in diplomatic circles.
NP/ BBC/Monitored reports
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