International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor. File photo: GCIS

Pretoria - International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor on Sunday expressed concern about statements said to emanate from a student organisation in Nigeria, calling for the expulsion of South Africans and protests at South African-owned businesses.

"The protests are said to be in response to alleged killings of Nigerians by South Africans. As you are aware, these allegations are devoid of truth, reckless, and unwarranted," Pandor told journalists at a briefing in Pretoria.

These statements were most unfortunate, as they did not reflect the existing strong relations between the people and the government of South Africa and Nigeria. The two countries enjoyed strong bilateral relations, which were forged over many years during the struggle for liberation in South Africa and in this democratic era, fully supported by the people and government of Nigeria, she said.

Acting High Commissioner to Nigeria Bobby Moroe had had several meetings with the police and other senior government officials in Nigeria.

"We have also had contact from the highest level of the Nigerian government; we have been assured that authorities in Nigeria are taking these calls for protests seriously. They have also assured us that South African citizens and their property in Nigeria will be protected," Pandor said.

South Africa valued the strong ties it had established with Nigeria and would continue to enhance these even further.

The statements referred to appeared to result from the unfortunate death of Elizabeth Ndubuisi-Chukwu, the deputy director general of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria, in June 2019. The South African Police Service was still investigating the incident, she said.

"We believe no one should abuse this unfortunate tragedy to generate negative sentiments about South Africa and we express our condolences to Mrs Ndubuisi-Chukwu's family, friends, and the people of Nigeria."

Pandor repeated statements made by Police Minister Bheki Cele when addressing the diplomatic corps early this year. Firstly, there was no targeting of any group of Africans in South Africa. Secondly, the law enforcement agencies were making every effort to fight crime and arrest all criminals.

It was worth mentioning that, daily, Nigerian nationals travelled to South Africa for a multiplicity of reasons ranging from business, tourism, and academic purposes.

Similarly, South Africans had chosen Nigeria as their preferred destination for investment and other activities of interest. Nigeria was home to about 120 South African companies, including MTN, Shoprite, Multichoice, South African Airways, and Game, she said.

All these companies had over the years contributed towards job creation and social responsibility programmes for Nigerian nationals, both young and old.

"We are, therefore, very pleased that our strong relations were able to place South African business on a firm footing in Nigeria, and also paved the way for further investments by Nigerian business in South Africa.

"I am hoping that with the support of our High Commission in Nigeria we will be able to invite to South Africa some of the leaders of student organisations, leading the calls for protests against South African businesses in Nigeria.

"I will also ask my colleague, the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces of our Parliament [Amos Masondo] to invite his counterpart, the Senate President of Nigeria and a delegation to visit South Africa to see for themselves that many Nigerians live in peace and harmony among South Africans.

"We would also ensure that a delegation of members of the executive visit Nigeria to further strengthen our relations. I hope their visit will help them to develop a different view from that which they have about South Africa," Pandor said.

African News Agency (ANA)