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South Africa closes missions in Nigeria over ‘Afrophobia’

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South Africa Thursday said it has closed its diplomatic missions in Lagos and Abuja after reprisal attacks on some of its businesses.

South Africa Foreign Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor told Reuters that the closure was necessary after series of attacks on foreign-owned businesses in South Africa caused a diplomatic spat.

She said South Africa was in constant contact with Nigerian authorities to restore calm, adding there was no provision in local laws for compensation for damage caused in the attacks.

Nigeria’s initial tepid reactions to the latest waves of attacks irked a large percentage of Nigeria’s youthful population, with many calling for the government to send a strong message to South Africa.

South Africa's police minister Bheki Cele said earlier in the week that attacks on foreigners were acts of "criminality" and not xenophobic. Same sentiment was shared by the country's high commissioner to Nigeria.

But President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged that there were anti-foreigner sentiments in the country. Those sentiments, he said, should not be allowed to fester.

“We are a country that is completely committed against xenophobia,” he said. “We do not allow and cannot tolerate attacks on people from other African countries.”

Pandor, however, described the anti-migrants sentiments as Afrophobia - fear or dislike of Africans. Like Ramaphosa, she said, South Africa needs to rein in the attacks.

“There is an Afrophobia we are sensing that exists, there is resentment and we need to address that,” Pandor said on the sidelines of World Economic Forum holding in Cape Town.

“There is a targeting of Africans from other parts of Africa, we can’t deny that. But, there is also criminality ... because a lot of this is accompanied by theft.”


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