Abuja – President Muhammadu Buhari and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa on Thursday in Pretoria, South Africa, agreed to share intelligence and set up “early warning mechanisms” to prevent attacks on foreign nationals.
This is coming after xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other African nationals in South Africa. Mobs descended on foreign-owned stores in and around Johannesburg in early September, destroying properties and looting.
At least 12 people were killed, most of them South Africans.
Violent attacks targeting foreigners erupted notably in 2008 and 2015.
Buhari and Ramaphosa discussed trade and political ties at the start of Buhari’s three-day state visit, as they pledged they would work together on policing and shared intelligence to prevent similar incidents.
“Early warning mechanisms will be set up so that when we see there is restiveness in both of our people… we will be able to inform one another,” Ramaphosa said.
“Our condemnation of all forms of intolerance and acts of violence remains firm,” he said. “We are equally committed to upholding the rule of law and ensuring that all those involved in criminal activities, regardless of their nationality, are prosecuted.”
President Buhari called for more tolerance and heightened security.
“Our respective police forces and security agencies must be very alert,” he told the press conference. “They must infiltrate the communities and know their thinking”.
“Police must be on alert not to allow violence to escalate,” he said.
President Buhari said the business world had turned out more dynamic over the years, with foreigners competing with locals in businesses that were initially considered low. He said the panacea would only be for security agencies to show more interest in market operations, players and likely areas of tensions.
The president likened the situation of Nigerians in South Africa to Ghana where competition at low levels of the economy breeds intense competition, noting that it will keep growing with population explosion.
The president told Nigerians living in various parts of the world, especially in South Africa, to adhere with the laws of the country they reside, and ensure compliance with market laws.
“Like it is said, ‘when you are in Rome behave like the Romans’. Always be law abiding,’’ he said.
Earlier in his remark, the president condemned attacks on Nigerians and the burning of their properties in South Africa, describing it as “unacceptable’’, while assuring the South African government that their citizens and businesses in Nigeria will always be protected from harm. He also condemned the reprisal attacks in Nigeria.
“In my discussions with President Ramaphosa and the Bi-National Commission meeting, we reviewed wide range of issues at national, regional, continental and global levels,’’ he added.
He said some of the issues were on trade, investment, mining, security, police affairs and environment. “Our two countries have also agreed to unequivocally address the challenges in our relations including the recent people to people challenges that saw attacks against foreign nationals, including Nigerians, and their properties, which we strongly condemned.”
Buhari also urged the South African government to be more liberal in its economic policies.
Buhari also advised the South African government to take a cue from the ease of doing business policy in Nigeria as a means of promoting trade and investments between both countries.
He said, “We call for the strengthening and implementation of all the necessary measures to prevent the re-occurrence of such action which threatens to undermine, not only our strong bilateral relations but also what we stand for in the context of our vision for a strong and prosperous Africa we want.”
He spoke at the inaugural meeting of the 9th Bi-National Commission at the seat of government, Union Building.
President Buhari said South African companies had enjoyed unfettered access to Nigerian market, and protection with enabling laws, urging the government to design policies that favour investments from Nigeria.
The president had co-chaired the inaugural meeting of the Bi-National Commission at the level of heads of state.
President Buhari said Nigeria will continue to value its relationship with South Africa, which is the second largest economy in Africa, noting that 32 agreements and MoUs had been signed between both countries.
“We, in Nigeria, value the warm fraternal relations binding our two countries and cherish our special relationship. We consider South Africa an ally and a strategic partner.
“We need to implement those that have come into force, as well as to expedite necessary action to ratify the seven outstanding agreements that have not yet been brought into force.
“I welcome the robust defence cooperation between Nigeria and South Africa, and call for more support and solidarity with us in our fight against terrorism and violent extremism. We also welcome the increased collaboration against arms and drug trafficking, money laundering and human trafficking,” he added.
In his remarks, President Ramaphosa, who congratulated President Buhari for winning the 2019 presidential election and starting a second term, said the attacks on foreigners in South Africa, including Nigerians, were regrettable, assuring that his government will work hard to see an end to such attacks. He also condemned reprisal attacks in Nigeria.
He said President Buhari is the first president to embark on a state visit in South Africa since they came into power.
“We will work together to promote cohesion and best values. What happened did not reflect our values. We both condemn the attacks and the reprisal in strongest terms. We will set up mechanisms for early signals,” he said.
President Ramaphosa said his country will also create a more enabling environment for Nigerian businesses to thrive in South Africa, acknowledging that more South African companies operate in Nigeria, while Nigerians were mostly in small and medium scale sectors in his country.
“We have large corporations operating in Nigeria while you have small and medium enterprises from Nigeria here in South Africa.”
He promised to deepen the reforms in his country to open the space for more Nigerian business to “address the imbalance”.
“The rule of law must be obeyed by all citizens. Nigerians in South Africa must obey the rule of law, while South Africans in Nigeria must obey the rule of law,’’ he said.
Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, signed agreements on the minutes of the 9th session of Bi-National Commission.