Dirco was forced to close South Africa’s two of its embassies in Nigeria after receiving threats amid the xenophobic violence.
Diplomatic tensions between South Africa and Nigeria are palpable. Our ministry of foreign affairs has revealed that South Africa’s embassies, in Abuja and Lagos, have been closed indefinitely due to fears of safety.
Xenophobic attacks: What’s the latest?
Things have quietened down in South Africa after a week of violent riots perpetrated by locals in Gauteng against foreign-owned shops.
Police arrested hundreds and foreign nationals have been left with two options: Rebuild or take the free flight ticket back to Nigeria.
Across our borders, however, the situation is a bit different. On Wednesday, videos showing South African businesses being attacked by Zambian and Nigerian locals, in their respective countries, went viral.
While government officials from South Africa and Nigeria have been engaged in urgent talks around ways of possibly bringing peace to Africa’s superpowers, things on the grounds of Abuja and Lagos have yet to stabilise and return to normal.
South African businesses in Nigeria have yet to report the extent of the damage and financial loss that they suffered in the attacks. Fortunately, there have been no reports of fatalities or injured South Africans.
Why did South Africa close its embassies?
According to Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) spokesperson, Lunga Ngqengelele, the decision to call for the closure of our embassies in Abuja and Lagos came after both offices received threats from Nigerian locals.
“After receiving reports and threats from some of the Nigerians we decided to temporarily close while we are assessing the situation,” he said.
At this point in time, Ngqengelele added, Dirco is not certain when the embassies will be reopened. For now, the safety of the employees is the priority.
“So we will be monitoring the situation and when [we] see it necessary to open, we will re-open. It was on that basis that we felt we need to protect the employees and shut it down,” he said.
According to our understanding, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had sent an envoy of government officials to assess the situation in South Africa and possibly mark down a time when Ramaphosa can meet with him to map out a way forward.
Also, the outcomes of the meeting between Bobby Moroe, South Africa’s High Commissioner, and Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama have not yet been announced.