The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, on Thursday expressed her disappointment at having to take the decision to support the closure of the South African High Commission in Abuja and the Consulate in Lagos.
This comes after both offices were closed on Tuesday, following concerns reported to the minister by officials at both these missions. This followed the receipt of threats against the mission staff as well as the property of South Africa. 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.
In a statement, Pandor said: “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”.
The Minister expressed displeasure at misleading reports circulating on social media about a direct physical attack on the acting head of mission. She said these reports were false, as were reports of vandalism at the Commission in Abuja and the Consulate in Lagos.
“Our 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. The department has received reports of marches by demonstrators to South African companies as well as attempts to attack them. We are 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,” said Pandor.
Pandor said it was established tradition in foreign policy that diplomatic missions should enjoy protection from the host country and while they 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”.
The Minister confirmed that her directive to the Mission that links should be encouraged between the youth of SA and Nigeria and that the Nigerian student association should be invited to visit SA has been acted upon.
She said meetings have been held at the mission with the student organisation and a committee was established to continue the dialogue and work on the detail of the proposed visit. The department and the ministry will remain in constant contact with our representatives and will continue to assess the situation on the ground and provide feedback as new information becomes available,” said Pandor. The Minister said that she was planning to meet the African heads of mission to South Africa as early as next week.
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