Mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba has said it “was not necessary” for South Africa to apologise to Nigeria for the recent xenophobic attacks.
“No, there is nothing for me to apologise about,” Mashaba said on CNBC Africa’s Political Capital on Tuesday.
“What do you expect me to really apologise for?”
Nigerians and other foreign nationals were attacked earlier in September by irate mobs of South Africans who blamed them for spiking unemployment and drug-related crime rates.
Many non-South African businesses in and around Johannesburg and Pretoria were also vandalised and looted by the mob.
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa apologised for the violence at the weekend in Zimbabwe.
The violence, which claimed the lives of 12 persons, most of whom were South Africans, caused diplomatic rows between the country and her neighbours and Nigeria.
Nigeria, Rwanda, Congo and Malawi boycotted the World Economic Forum meeting held in Cape Town last week as a result.
Botswana told her citizens “travelling to South Africa to exercise extreme caution in light of recent developments resulting in violent unrests.”
Zambia also called off a planned football friendly with South Africa.
But Mashaba, the mayor of Africa’s richest city, is unfazed by the violence although he insisted that he was not xenophobic.
His stance mirrors those of former South African deputy police minister Bongani Mkongi, foreign affairs minister Naledi Pandor and former president Thabo Mbeki.
South Africa has had an alarming increase in crime rates, especially femicide. The South African leaders accused Nigerians of being the ringleaders of drug and prostitution cartels in the country.
“We are not going to turn a blind eye on such evil crime happening under our watch,” Mashaba said, adding that “the country [South Africa] also owes an official apology to the 10.2 million unemployed South Africans who are today without jobs as a result of billions of counterfeit goods being brought illegally into the country, killing local manufacturing.”
Tough talks by South African leaders like Mashaba and Pandor shows that the xenophobic violence was “sponsored or condoned” by the country’s authorities, Nigeria’s former minister of foreign affairs Professor Bolaji Akinyemi said in a statement on Sunday.
Akinyemi urged Nigeria to drag South Africa before the International Criminal Court.
Although President Muhammadu Buhari told South Africa’s special envoy who visited him on Monday that he will work for a closer tie between the two countries, foreign affairs minister Geoffrey Onyeama told The Guardian a day before that Nigeria was weighing her options, including suing South Africa.
“We cannot rule anything out for now,” he said.
Discussions about the attacks are expected to come up when Buhari and Ramaphosa meet in South Africa next month.
As a temporary measure, Nigeria began the evacuation of her citizens willing to leave South Africa. The process is being bankrolled by a private airline Air Peace.
But the evacuation itself has not been without drama.
The chief executive officer of Air Peace Allen Onyema accused South African authorities of denying Air Peace landing to fly returnees out on Tuesday. But Nigeria’s Consul- General in Johannesburg Godwin Adama said the permit was later granted.
Onyema also accused South African officials of claiming that evacuation was not backed by the Nigerian government.