Reports of a boycott by African heads of state and the government over the start of Africa World Economic Forum appears to have been greatly exaggerated. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)
Cape Town - Reports of a boycott by African heads of state and the government over xenophobic violence in the country has cast a shadow over the start of the Africa World Economic Forum (WEF) in Cape Town, but it appears to have been greatly exaggerated.

Instead, a large protest over violence against women in front of the Convention Centre was vying for the spotlight.

Ethiopia’s President Sahlework Zewde, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa were among the African leaders who took part in a number of WEF panels.

On Wednesday, Elsie Kanza, the head of Africa at the WEF expressed her surprise with regard to media reports and social media posts about a “boycott” of the forum.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame had cancelled his participation at the WEF meeting on Saturday, before the xenophobic attacks erupted in Pretoria and Johannesburg, she said.

The WEF’s head of strategic communications, Olly Cann, said that Malawi’s leader had also confirmed that he would not be attending the Africa World Economic Forum.

Nigerian Vice-President Yemi Osin- bajo arrived for the conference as scheduled, while Kanze said on eNCA: “The South African government teams have been following-up on the delegations from the DRC and Malawi, because while they indicated that they would be participating, they never completed their registration.”

On Tuesday, the Nigerian presidency said Osinbajo would be visiting South Africa in October “to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa” and “top on the agenda would be guaranteeing the safety of all the Nigerians who are in South Africa”.

The MTN Group, a South African multinational mobile telecommunications company operating in Nigeria, among others, confirmed that four MTN outlets in Nigeria had been under attack, and that they had been forced to close some of their Joburg stores.

In a statement, MTN said: “While we remain committed to providing uninterrupted services, the safety and security of our customers, staff and partners is our primary concern.

“MTN’s stores and service centres in Nigeria have been closed as a precaution.” MTN said it was working with the relevant authorities and other stakeholders to focus on stabilising the situation both in Nigeria and South Africa and ensure the safety and well-being of all those impacted by the violence.

In a bid to quell the anti-foreigner violence, Ramaphosa tweeted: “The people of our country want to live in harmony; whatever concerns or grievances we may have, we need to handle them in a democratic way.

“There can be no justification for any South African to attack people from other countries.”

@MwangiGithahu

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Cape Argus