On Monday, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane met with her Nigerian counterpart Geoffrey Onyeama in Pretoria to discuss bilateral relations.
The focal issue that took the centre stage at the meeting was the recent xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in some parts of the country.
Highlights of the meeting was a bilateral agreement between the two countries to set up an early warning unit to check future xenophobic attacks.
The early warning unit would comprise representatives of the South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, police, immigration, representatives of Nigerian High Commission, consulate and the Nigeria union in South Africa.
In addition, he explained that the unit “will meet every three months and that will be a framework within which the Nigeria Union at South Africa will be able to engage on a permanent basis with the main high-level government officials of this country, stating that their meeting will go a long way in enabling them to share intelligence and information.
The Nigerian delegates, together with her South African counterpart also had positive discussions on how to protect Nigerians and their property with the help of the Home Affairs Department.
In her contribution, South Africa’s Nkoana-Mashabane said it was untrue that the attacks on foreign nationals were targeted at the Nigerians”, adding that citizens of other countries were also affected.
After much deliberations on xenophobia, Nigerian Minister Onyeama assured his hosts that Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari will soon pay a state visit to South Africa.
President Muhammadu Buhari just returned to Nigerian last Friday after spending several weeks in the UK receiving treatment.
A special thanksgiving was subsequently held by some presidential aides, pastors and clerics last Sunday to thank God for the President’s safe return.
The delegation also visited business premises and homes of Nigerians attacked during the xenophobic incidents in February.
Touching on the meeting on Tuesday, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba described the meeting between representatives of South Africa and Nigeria as “a display of political maturity from the governments”.
He explained that the meeting was timely and necessary as well, not just for Nigerians but Africans as a whole.
Gigaba noted that the bilateral talks “Communicates a message that there’s a sinister but concerted effort to heighten the tensions between the nationals of our countries and between our two governments. For us to meet at this level is a demonstration of political maturity on our part.”
In February, some parts of the country, including Tshwane, Pretoria and Rossetenville in southern Johannesburg were plagued by anti-immigrant attacks with locals accusing foreigners of crime and demanding they leave the country.
Jeppestown, a town in Johannesburg is said to have been looted on Sunday evening and Monday morning. Residents of the town reportedly demonstrated against foreigners who own car workshops and spaza shops in the area, accusing them of committing crimes such as drug dealing and prostitution.
According to the Nigerian Union in South Africa, there are about 800,000 Nigerians in the country, with many of them living in Johannesburg.
Earlier this month, Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba met with Nigerian consulate over xenophobia.
Mashaba used the opportunity to clarify his past comments on immigration and the violence. However, both parties also agreed that the rule of law must be respected.
Mashaba is accused of sparking the recent violent attacks on foreign nationals after his comment in December which was described as being naïve and reckless, or simply Afrophobic, and led to more burning and looting.