The recent press statements that have been attributed to Rwandan President Paul Kagame in relation to the so-called deteriorating relations with South Africa need to be put into context, says the writer. Picture: Markus Schreiber/AP/African News Agency (ANA)

The recent article in The Star on the relations between South Africa and Rwanda was revealing in the extent to which it exposed the tensions between the two countries. Rwanda put blame on the senior South African officials who are answerable for the escalation of conflict and strife in the DRC.

The recent press statements that have been attributed to Rwandan President Paul Kagame in relation to the so-called deteriorating relations with South Africa need to be put into context. Relations between South Africa and Rwanda became frosty when a senior member of their army was murdered on South African soil.

South Africa took a dim view of a fellow state that was alleged to have sponsored the assassination of someone who had sought asylum here. This was viewed as an affront to the diplomatic relations between the two countries and the resultant demarche. This event predated the arrival of Minister Lindiwe Sisulu in the international relations space as it occurred during the tenure of president Jacob Zuma.

South Africa upholds a culture of human rights and allows for political dissent. We took strong exception to the assassination of a foreign national, which was reminiscent of the apartheid killing squads.

When Sisulu told a press conference she had met with General Kayumba Nyamwasa with the hope to ensure his safe return to his country in the furtherance of reconciliation, this action was met with fury, with Sisulu labelled a “prostitute” by an official doing the bidding of his masters.

Murder on our home soil can never be a solution to negotiations.

That the “prostitute” remarks were not officially withdrawn and the official not publicly reprimanded was evidence of a warped mind and terrified regime that purports to exhort excellence while suppressing dissent.

Leading members of the Rwanda National Council, Frank Ntwali and Nyamwasa, are under constant attack in South Africa. Nyamwasa was shot in the stomach here. These are opposition leaders who have since fled their country because of a lack of political freedom. Rwanda is not a democratic state, but a one-party regime that does not allow any form of opposition.

Both Rwanda and South Africa have a critical role to play in the affairs of the region and each must respect the democratic culture of the other.

Rwanda’s painful past must invite a more sober manner of dealing with dissent rather than death squads.

South Africa will stand its ground when it comes to defending these values, especially when such murders take place on South African soil. We will not be browbeaten in our quest for a continent where people enjoy freedom of expression and freedom of dissent.

Rwanda government responds:

Our expectations would have been State to State consultations on how to handle the dissidents and not unilateral engagement of the dissidents on terms of return to Rwanda without Rwanda involved.

The two countries’ histories and challenges are different therefore they can not run their affairs in similar manners. Dissidents in South Africa are not opposing policies but attempting to violently overthrow government as proven by various reports including the recent UN report.The whole narrative is one sided and sounding like those dissidents’ narrative.

Most important is the big picture of one day getting the two nations around a diplomatic table of bilateral engagements like before 2010.

* Thami Ka Plaatjie is a member of the International Relations Policy Review Panel at Dirco.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Star