The Times /Sapa, 3 June 2008

PLEASE NOTE: Readers wishing to reproduce and reference this article
should contact the editors of the The Times and/or Sapa for permission

President Thabo Mbeki denied reports that the SA government had been warned of the prospect of xenophobic attacks by the National Intelligence Agency. Briefing reporters following his meeting with Nigerian President Umaru Yar-Adua, Mbeki said suggestions that the government was warned a year ago about the recent xenophobic violence were false. "There was no such intelligence reports - they certainly did not come to me," he said. The government would have taken measures to prevent the attacks if it had been warned about them. "If there had been any such reports, of course we would have acted on them," Mbeki said. Yar-Adua said his government was happy with the manner in which the SA government had responded to the attacks. "The government brought out troops to ensure that immigrants of African origin are protected. The South African government had made a determined effort to control the situation". It was important for the xenophobic attacks to be condemned. "This is precisely what President Mbeki and the South African government has done," Yar-Adua said. Although no Nigerians have been among those killed in the violence, many of them have lost their property. Yar-Adua, who is on a four-day visit to SA, did not comment on reports that the Nigerian Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe had suggested that the South African government should compensate Nigerians who had lost their possessions during the attacks. Mbeki told reporters that he had, on behalf of all South Africans, apologised to Yar-Adua for what had happened to Nigerians immigrants. He said the objective of Tuesday’s discussions was to deepen the two countries’ bilateral relations. "We continue to hold the view that it is very important to strengthen the relationship between the two countries," he said. The two governments were concerned about the fact that many of the bilateral agreements between the two countries had not been implemented. While a high number of South African companies had invested in Nigeria, very few Nigerian companies had invested in SA. "We need to see the same phenomenon with regards to Nigerian companies here," Mbeki said. Part of his discussions with Yar-Adua had focused on identifying obstacles blocking the implementations of trade agreements between the two countries. On Wednesday Yar-Adua and Mbeki will participate in a Nigeria business forum to be held in Cape Town.