South Africa apologises as ex Nigerian first lady falls victim to violent xenophobia

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The South African Government has apologised for the wave of attacks on foreigners, including Nigerians, which has claimed 42 lives in the country.

The attacks have mostly affected Nigerians, Mozambicans, Zimbabweans, Kenyans, Somalis and other immigrants of African descent, forcing the South African government to order soldiers to the streets to quell the violence on Thursday.

Prior to the two-week-old violence, there had been series of attacks targetted at Nigerians visiting South Africa as well as some of the staff attached to the Nigerian High Commission in the country.

Among the victims are the wife of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Mrs Oluremi Obasanjo and a former presidential aspirant, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.

In a statement in Abuja on Friday, the South African Deputy President, Mrs. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, apologised for the ugly situation faced by Nigerians and other foreigners in the former apartheid enclave.

Responding to an address by Nigeria’s Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, at the opening session of the seventh Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission at the Banquet Hall of the State House in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, Mlambo-Ngcuka said, “I want to apologise to those who have been affected and want to give the assurance that those who are responsible will be dealt with by the law.

“The acts over the last few weeks are nothing else but criminal and we will not allow them to destabilise the country and our relations with the citizens of all other countries.”

She dismissed prevailing insinuations that the attacks were over fears by the natives that foreigners are taking their jobs, explaining, “I cannot believe that the issue is about jobs. I cannot believe that normal South Africans are anti- their African brothers and sisters. I just cannot believe this […] While we do not have all the facts, I can say that South Africans have always appreciated the hospitality shown them by the African continent, their African brothers and sisters, during the dark days of apartheid.

“Let there be reassurance that we are doing all in our power to stop this violence. That we will get to the root causes and that in the long term, we will find solutions to these sometimes complex problems.”

Speaking earlier, Jonathan urged the South African Government to immediately address the problem and other contentious issues in its relations with Nigeria. Specifically, Jonathan told Mlambo-Ngcuka her government should put a stop to the imposition of discriminatory visa fees on Nigerian visa applicants, noting that the fees were “strange” because Nigerian applicants are the only group required to pay such.

“It is even more disturbing to know that visitors to South Africa from Europe , the Americas and other far-flung lands are not required to pay these repatriation fees. We believe the imposition of such fees run against the spirit of African unity.”

Recalling with nostalgia Nigeria’s invaluable role in the anti-apartheid movement that led to the liberation of South Africa from white minority supremacist rule, the vice-president said attacks on Nigerians in South African cities also ran against the guiding principles of African brotherliness.

Jonathan however, acknowledged the efforts of the South African Government in addressing the problem.

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