EXCLUSIVE: UN ambitions seen straining Nigeria, SA relations
by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THERE appears to be more to the diplomatic tiff between Nigeria and South Africa than the latest xenophobic attacks the latter have unleashed on fellow African nationals in recent weeks.
As findings by CAJ News suggest, the xenophobic attacks, which have led to Nigeria recalling its envoys from the Southern African country, are just a tip of the iceberg of underlying tensions that have set the continent’s key economic and political heavyweights at loggerheads.
As analysts suggest, the diplomatic row has little or nothing to do with the death, and delayed repatriation, of scores of South Africans at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) belonging to Nigerian popular prophet T B Joshua last year.
Neither has it anything to do with the recent xenophobic violence that has claimed the lives of seven foreign nationals and displaced more than 2 000 others in South Africa.
The larger bone of contention is believed to be the battle for the “Big Brother” position for Africa at the United Nations (UN) Security Council.
Lobbying for the UN Security Council for Africa’s permanent position has just kicked in earnest but the nasty part of is that both South Africa and Nigeria are eyeing the position and cannot reach common ground as to which between the two countries should bag the throw in its candidacy into the hat.
Nigeria has aggressively lobbied the West African grouping of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as the Francophone nations.
On the other hand, South Africa, has just started lobbying through their regional bloc, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU).
Amid the jockeying, the influence of the AU’s respected continental statesman, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who is also the SADC chairman, is seen as tilting the scales in favour of Zimbabwe’s southern neighbor.
Mugabe and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo were once on a collision course with the latter denounced as the West’s blue-eyed-boy amid the electoral crises in Zimbabwe at the turn of the millennium.
Mugabe divides opinion.
While he is admonished as a tyrant in the West, many African nations adore him as a liberator.
He is seen as highly regarded in the East African Community (EAC), SADC and ECOWAS regions than any other leaders today.
Despite South Africa having Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, ironically born in the province that is the epicentre of the latest xenophobic attacks, at the African Union Commission, Mugabe’s influence must not be underestimated.
Mugabe is a veteran of all regions.
His nation contributed significantly to bring about peace in East Africa where the US failed, especially in Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan and Eritrea conflicts.
In West Africa he assisted in bringing stability to Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, while closer home to SADC Zimbabwe’s security brought stability in DRC, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia and Lesotho.
Mugabe’s influence, now as the AU and SADC chairman cannot be underestimated, analysts said.
“If South Africa wants this UN Security Council position, they should know that it is not their financial muscle that will bear success. They must play the game with the old political veteran of the continent, Mugabe, alone.
“Mugabe can easily persuade the East African region to support the SADC member states in endorsing South Africa’s candidature at the UN Security Council and easily win it ahead of Nigeria,” said an analyst.
Social commentator, Salatiel Mavesere of Zimbabwe, was adamant the latest round of xenophobic attacks did not influence his prospects for South Africa.
“For now, South Africa must stop tempering with other Africans’ nationalities in the country if ever to win the UN Security Council position,” he said.
“Out there, there is anger, outrage and venom against Pretoria’s boastful, arrogance and stubbornness about its economy yet on the other hand South Africans are killing and maiming fellow Africans unprovoked,” said Mavesere.
Mavesere lost a relative in the 2008 violent xenophobic violence.
Arnold Mutale of Zambia said Zimbabwe’s president could sway the UN Security Council votes for Africa in favour of South Africa, but was skeptical about Pretoria’s abuse of other African nationals in that country.
“All veterans, new and aspiring presidents for Africa, they look up to the likes of Mugabe. Though Mugabe heads a small nation, his influence is huge considering the portfolios he holds and what his country did for other African countries.
“South Africa must lobby first with Mugabe and then the old man will ensure that both SADC and East African Nations vote for Pretoria at the UN Security Council – which is doable,” Mutale, whose uncle was killed in the 2008 xenophobic violence, said.
Malawi’s Mavhuto Banda, who was displaced from his Diepsloot house sometime in 2008 by South African xenophobic violence, said Mugabe holds the key decision between Nigeria and South Africa.
“With the blessings of Mugabe, South African can always land the UN Security Council seat, but at the same time, with his (Mugabe’s) curse, South Africa will lose it,” Banda said.
Lameck Felani of Mozambique, who twice was a victim of xenophobia in 2008 and the recent weeks in KwaZulu Natal, said South Africa should restrain from bullying other Africans.
“For the sake of promoting SADC, President Mugabe must support South Africa than giving it away to Nigerians, who are far from the region.
” While it is done in empathy, South Africa must in future learn to live in harmony with fellow Africans,” Felani said.
More than 60 foreign nationals were killed in 2008, seven confirmed dead in the just ended weeks of KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng xenophobic violence with more than 200, 000 displaced from their homes in 2008 and more than 2,000 others rendered destitutes recently.
– CAJ News
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