South Africa and Nigeria clash over xenophobic violence
'Diplomatic tit-for tat' intensifies as Pretoria issues strongly worded statement criticising Nigeria
South Africa has criticised Nigeria for recalling its ambassador in the wake of a wave of xenophobic violence in the country, calling it an "unfortunate and regrettable step".
In a strongly worded statement, Pretoria said: "If this action is based on the incidents of attacks on foreign nationals in some parts of our country, it would be curious for a sisterly country to want to exploit such a painful episode for whatever agenda."
South Africa's government spokesman, Clayson Monyela, appeared to fan the flames further when he added that his country did not blame Nigeria "for the deaths and more than nine months delay in the repatriation of the bodies of our fallen compatriots" following the collapse of a building in Lagos last year. This "particularly snarky" media statement is the latest round in an ongoing "diplomatic tit-for-tat", says Quartz.
However, Nigeria's deputy foreign minister Musiliu Obanikoro insists that Acting High Commissioner Martin Cobham and his deputy had not been recalled indefinitely. He tweeted that Cobham had merely been summoned back to Nigeria for consultation.
The xenophobic violence, which began in the port city of Durban and spread to Johannesburg, left at least seven people dead. Locals targeted homes and businesses owned by foreigners, particularly targeting migrants from other parts of Africa.
The violence has heightened "us and them" attitudes, creating bitterness and resentment among countries that hosted thousands of South African exiles during Apartheid, The Guardian reports.
Last week, Nigerian MPs put forward a motion – which was later defeated - to sever all diplomatic ties with South Africa, as mass protests took place across Nigeria.
South African businesses have also been threatened with closure unless action is taken to prevent further violence. Several multinational firms have significant interests in Nigeria, which overtook South Africa as the continent's biggest economy last year.