Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
Following the decision of South Africa to close its missions in Abuja and the Consulate in Lagos, its Minister of International Relation and Cooperation, Dr. Naledi Pandor, has revealed that there was no direct ‘physical threat’ to any of its diplomats and citizens in Nigeria.
Pandor, in a statement issued on Thursday by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, said that both offices were closed on Tuesday, following concerns reported to the minister by officials at both missions.
She however expressed disappointment over the decision of her country to support the closure of the mission in Abuja and the Consulate in Lagos.
Pandor noted that the decision followed the receipt of threats against the mission staff as well as the property of South Africa.
She noted: “After extensive consultations with relevant stakeholders as well as a security assessment of threats, the Mission and the Department took the decision to close the offices.
“At this point, there has been no direct physical threat to any of our diplomats and citizens. However, we view their safety as a priority and have thus taken the precautionary measure of closing, while the situation remains somewhat unpredictable.”
Pandor however expressed displeasure at misleading reports circulating on social media about a direct physical attack on the acting head of mission, adding that these reports are totally false, as are reports of vandalism at the Commission in Abuja and the Consulate in Lagos.
She stressed that the acting head of mission is in constant communication with the department and with the authorities in Nigeria, who are providing extra security at South African offices.
She revealed further that the department has received reports of marches by demonstrators to South African companies as well as attempts to attack them, noting that her government is communicating with businesses that have branches in Nigeria and have requested their senior managers to remain in close contact with the department and the ministry.
According to her, “It is established tradition in foreign policy that diplomatic missions should enjoy protection from the host country and while we remain perturbed at the threats directed at our missions, we are grateful to note that the security forces and the government of Nigeria are upholding this long-established practice of foreign policy.”
Pandor noted that the department and the ministry would remain in constant contact with their representatives and would continue to assess the situation on the ground and provide feedback as new information becomes available.
She said she plans to meet the African Heads of Mission to South Africa as early as next week.