POLITICS

Nigerian Ministers In The Country To Assess Xenophobia Situation

Questions on what will come out of high-level South African-Nigerian meeting

13/03/2017 12:24 SAST | Updated 13/03/2017 14:18 SAST

Nigeria has sent a high-level delegation to South Africa to probe what is behind the recent xenophobic attacks and to look for solutions.

The Nigerian delegation, consisting of Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama and Interior Minister Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau, looked serious but in good spirits on Tuesday morning as they buckled down with their counterparts from South Africa, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, to talk about the issue that has strained bilateral relations.

The meeting took place at the Department of International Relations headquarters in Pretoria.

Attacks against Nigerians two years ago already brought the situation to a boiling point, but with a fresh spate of attacks in especially Johannesburg and Pretoria, Nigeria has indicated that it wanted to draw a line in the sand.

Some of these attacks have been labelled by the South African government as either criminal or a backlash against criminal elements in communities, some of whom happened to be Nigerian nationals.

Nigeria has claimed a number of nationals had been killed in attacks in South Africa, and a number of Nigerian organisations have asked for South African business interests in that country, like MTN, to shut down.

Nigerian officials said their ministers would be coming here to discuss the xenophobic attacks, but their South African counterparts played it down.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation in a press release on Sunday afternoon said the meeting with the Nigerian ministers "forms part of regular diplomatic engagements between South Africa and Nigeria and is geared towards strengthening and deepening bilateral relations between the two countries".

A march by Pretoria residents protesting against immigrants in late February turned chaotic and violent.

Days later, President Jacob Zuma said the Pretoria march wasn't xenophobic but was provoked by anger over crime.

Dozens of people were arrested after the violent clashes and Gauteng Premier David Makhura called for opposition to xenophobia.

"We call on all community leaders and political parties to stand up and speak out against these senseless acts of violence against foreign nationals. We need to hear every voice against xenophobia. We can't afford the repeat of events of the past years where many foreign nationals were killed and displaced. Stand up and be counted," said Makhura at the time.

This was what The Huffington Post South Africa recorded of that march.