Special envoys to rebuild relations with African countries

Monday, September 16, 2019

The sending of special envoys to several African countries is a reflection of South Africa’s resolve to address recent attacks on foreign nationals, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor said on Monday.

“South Africa… is taking this matter seriously and as a government, we will act with resolve to address these challenges. We are treating it with the level of seriousness required,” said the Minister.

Addressing the media ahead of South Africa’s participation in the upcoming 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Pandor said a briefing note had been prepared, which will be used by the three envoys.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on the weekend announced that former Minister Jeff Radebe, Ambassador Kingsley Mmabolo and Khulu Mbatha have been tasked to visit several African countries to deliver a message of reassurance in light of the attacks.

The envoys, Pandor said, have been scheduled to have their first two meetings today.

The envoys have a full understanding of the issues, which government has been open about. 

“We also will be giving assurance that we are giving attention to this matter,” said Pandor.

The envoys are visiting Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.  

“Nigeria would be very important for us to approach because of the perception that has been created by the media that the events that happened were a specific anti-Nigerian national set of attacks.

“We also believe that South Africa and Nigeria are also very influential on the continent and we can continue building on the positive relations that exist. We will achieve success,” said Pandor.

The Minister said steps should be taken to achieve greater levels of social cohesion.

She called on everyone to be “far more astute in the kinds of messages” that are sent, saying there needs to be provision for greater education on the matter instead of messages that enhance fear, antipathy and negativity.

Pandor will brief the UNGA forum, which will get underway on 24 September, on the attacks on foreign nationals.

“I will indicate to them that we are dealing with a very complex matter and that as South Africans, we truly regret what happened in our country and that we are working hard to ensure that we don’t have a reoccurrence of such incidents.”

The ordeal, she said, challenges government as well as other governments on the continent to strengthen the resolve to build economies that can absorb more people and is responsive to needs.

This would ensure that people no longer need to become economic migrants in order to have a livelihood.

Immigration policies

Pandor said there is a need for South Africa to develop better immigration policies. South Africa, she said, has been humane in its efforts to deal with illegal immigrants.

“…As a government, we haven’t done what has been done by some countries on the continent, where hundreds have been expelled when they are illegal immigrants.

“We’ve tried to be humane in our efforts. Yes, there has been violence but we have not behaved like [some] governments and those who did those things were not rejected by the international community. [We] understand that migration is a deeply challenging issue, which we need to address with full alert to the needs of humanity,” she said.

Should the envoys see a need for further engagements with the respective countries, the Minister will make a determination for further steps to be taken.

UNGA, which will take place in New York, will conclude on 26 September 2019. - SAnews.gov.za