South Africa’s Foreign Minister acknowledged on Thursday that prejudice against people from other African countries was one of the causes behind deadly attacks on foreign-owned businesses, a day after Pretoria was forced to shut its embassy in Nigeria over threats of retaliatory violence.
At least five Africans have been killed in attacks on foreigners in South Africa this week. On Wednesday South African companies MTN, and Shoprite closed stores in Nigeria after retaliatory attacks.
South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said the government decided to temporarily close the embassy in Nigeria for security reasons after a protest march was planned there and threats of violence were received.
In an interview on the sidelines of a continental economic conference in Cape Town, Pandor said South Africa was in constant contact with Nigerian authorities and was also working to restore calm in areas affected by the violence.
“There is an Afrophobia we are sensing that exists, there is resentment and we need to address that,” Pandor said.
“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,” she said, describing the attacks as a complex phenomenon whose root causes were not easy to define.
The violence in South Africa has overshadowed the conference of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town. Nigeria announced on Wednesday it would boycott the meeting.
The withdrawal from the summit of Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was scheduled to address a panel on universal energy access on Thursday, has cast a cloud over initiatives to boost intra-African trade.