President Cyril Ramaphosa has said the recent spate of xenophobic unrest compromised South Africa’s relations with other African countries.
Ramaphosa said this in his weekly newsletter, From the Desk of the President, on Monday.
“The recent public violence targeting foreign nationals has challenged our efforts to build stronger ties with other African countries,” the President said.
Muhammadu Buhari’s state visit
He was reflecting on last week’s state visit by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, saying many people had expected it to be “tense and difficult.”
The visit came soon after the Gauteng unrest in which foreign nationals were reportedly targeted. Hundreds of them, including over 600 Nigerians, opted to leave the country.
However, Ramaphosa said Buhari’s visit turned out to be “extremely successful” and cemented relations between South African and Nigeria.
He added, “We emphasised the need for South Africans in Nigeria and Nigerians in South Africa to respect and obey the laws of their host countries.”
He and Buhari agreed that the two countries, as the two largest economies on the continent, have a key role to play in shaping Africa’s future.
‘South Africa’s future lies in Africa’
President Ramaphosa also emphasised the centrality of Africa in South Africa’s future, especially through trade and investments.
He hailed the Africa Continental Free Trade Area as a “game-changer” that offers massive opportunities for Africa.
“The time is right for a new era of intra-African trade, where African countries no longer look abroad for the products and services they need, but to other countries on this continent,” Ramaphosa added.
The president said South Africa’s commitment to African integration is not merely sentimental or ideological, but a matter of national interest.
He explained that this is because integration will bring “very real material benefits” for South Africa. He added, “Our future is in Africa, with Africa.”
Ramaphosa’s newsletter served to outline a key component of his administration’s foreign policy as South Africa prepares to assume chairmanship of the African Union in a few months’ time.