Mail & Guardian/Sapa, 2 June 2008
PLEASE NOTE: Readers wishing to reproduce and
reference this article
should contact the editors of the Mail & Guardian and/or Sapa for permission
Threats of retaliation against South Africans in other countries for the recent spate of xenophobic attacks have been overplayed, the Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, Aziz Pahad, said on Monday. Speaking ahead of the state visit to SA by Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua, he said the attacks on foreigners would be on the agenda when the West African nation's leader meets President Thabo Mbeki. "We will take the opportunity to discuss with the Nigerians undocumented citizens, the issue of how their citizens can integrate into South African society, and how we deal with undocumented people that are here," Pahad said. "We are quite convinced that criminal elements have exploited the genuine frustration of our people. We will explain to them the government strategy and tactics to deal with attacks against foreigners," he added. Nigerians have been outraged by the attacks against foreigners, reportedly threatening to turn the table on South Africans living in Nigeria. Nigerian Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe was last week quoted as saying that a list of Nigerians affected by the violence had been compiled with a view to pursuing compensation claims with the South African government. But Yar'Adua has since denied this. Many South African firms and investors are operating in Nigeria, including MTN, DSTV, Group 5, Shoprite and others. Pahad said the threats of violence against South Africans were not put into action. "I think the vast majority of governments, and I assume people in other countries, understand the South African people's position. "[They] understood that the vast majority of South Africans have condemned attacks against foreigners," he said. Pahad encouraged the private sector to use the Nigerian state visit to explore business opportunities. "So much opportunities have arisen, our parastatels ... all of them are involved in Nigeria, the private sector are quite involved ... still we are not exploiting the immense potential that a country like Nigeria provides. Our private sector must understand the opportunities that exist," he said. Trade between the two countries amounts to about R17-billion annually. Yar'Adua arrives in South Africa on Monday but will officially be welcomed by Mbeki on Tuesday when he would address a joint session of Parliament. He was also expected to address the World Economic Forum being hosted in Cape Town.