|EDITORIAL COMMENT: A taste of things to come|
|Saturday, 31 March 2012 23:07|
When Africa’s two superpowers trade blows, the rest of the continent can only look on in utter shock and disbelief.
In the past, South Africa and Nigeria have maintained a veneer of mutual respect in their bilateral relations. As continental giants, a sobering reality has forced them to uphold “cordial” relations: they must either co-operate or face mutually assured destruction. And so a sense of pragmatism has kept the two nations on the path of enlightened self-interest, the realisation that each country, by generally furthering the interests of the other nation, ultimately furthers its own interests in the long run.
bilateral wrestling between Abuja and Pretoria.
kindly to this slap in the face, describing it as “harsh and unfriendly treatment”. The Nigerians protested, arguing that, under a standing agreement, South Africa was supposed to quarantine and vaccinate the Nigerian travellers instead of unilaterally deporting them.
Swift retaliation followed, even though Abuja chose to couch it in diplomatic-speak, calling it “reciprocity”. Nigeria promptly “reciprocated” by deporting 131 South Africans within 72 hours. It did not end there. The Nigerian government went a gear up by threatening to slap “sanctions” on South African companies operating in the West African country.
With Pretoria cornered, what then followed was amazing. Nigeria’s foreign minister, Mr Olugbenga Ashiru, went for the jugular, telling the joint committee on foreign affairs of Nigeria’s national assembly that he was in favour of “retaliation” if South Africa chose not to apologise and punish the immigration officials who ordered the deportations. The foreign minister added that South Africa must compensate Arik Air, the Nigerian low-cost carrier which had suffered losses.
demanded any evidence of vaccination against these diseases from South African visitors. Incredible stuff! Relations had indeed hit rock-bottom.
The South African government, perhaps realising the folly of its ways, apologised to Nigeria, saying: “We are apologising because we deported a number of people who should not have been deported. We apologise for this unfortunate incident and we hope this matter will not in any way affect our bilateral relations.”
Libya taught Africa never to trust both South Africa and Nigeria. Both are sinners. However, it is everyone’s hope that President Zuma’s government has learnt a lesson from this bilateral fight with President Goodluck Jonathan. Africans must treat each other with dignity and respect. After all, just yesterday we were in the trenches together and fought shoulder-to-shoulder against the twin evils of colonialism and apartheid.
For Zimbabwe and South Africa, vicious battles are looming ahead. These fights, precipitated by the same racist forces of old, are bound to strain relations and even test the revolutionary resolve of Zanu-PF and the ANC.
Embittered Rhodies and remnants of the apartheid system are using South Africa’s courts as a springboard for a dramatic political comeback.