Notes following Joint Press Conference between President Thabo Mbeki and President Umaru Yar’Adua, Tuynhuys, Cape Town, Tuesday 3 June 2008

Remarks by President Thabo Mbeki

Mr President, let me say, welcome again and welcome to your important delegation that has accompanied you.

As you know, we have just had discussions with the President and his delegation and indeed, I am very glad that you are here.  I think that everybody is familiar with the nature of the relations between the two countries.  We continue to hold the view that it is very important that we should strengthen this partnership between Nigeria and South Africa in the interests of both the countries.  But we also believe this will have a positive impact on developments on the continent.

President was saying just now in the meeting that Nigeria has the largest amount of bilateral agreements with South Africa, more than any other country.  That is an indication of the nature of relations between the two countries.  We have agreed that one of the principle challenges we face is really the implementation of the many agreements we have reached between the two countries.  There is no obstacle to the strengthening of further relations except this point about ensuring that both countries and both governments act together quite vigorously to implement these agreements.

We are concerned to deepen the relationship on issues of economic development in its elements.  This will include investments in each others countries and we are very interested indeed to see more Nigerian companies active in South Africa.  We as the South African government must look at all matters related to the opening of the necessary space because as you know, there are various South African companies active in Nigeria which is good but we agreed that we also needed to see the same phenomenon with regard to Nigerian companies in South Africa.  To the extent there are some obstacles and blockages in this regard, we will attend to this.  So indeed, we foresee quite significant movement forward between the two countries with regard to this relationship of economic development, and a partnership in terms of encouraging this economic development.

Off course, you also know that the two countries have been co-operating very closely for many years on issues that relate to the African continent – that is a position we will maintain and sustain and therefore all these matters that have to do with strengthening the African Union, NEPAD and so on – again there are matters on which we will continue to work together and indeed, where necessary interact with the necessary frequency to make sure that we do move forward with this common agenda on the African continent.

We have apologised to the President with regard to these attacks that have taken place in some parts of our country – attacks against other Africans in particular and we have assured the President that as government, we are very much opposed to all of this and we are opposed to any manifestation of xenophobia that may arise and that we are quite determined to make sure that we protect the security of everybody but also very keen that the process of the reintegration of displaced people into the communities from which they have come is done as quickly as possible because we are against this notion of the segregation of foreign nationals who live in South Africa, the segregation including residence in exclusive camps and indeed, fortunately, many of our communities are indeed indicating that people with whom they have lived for a long time should indeed come back for that process of reintegration.

We are very glad that the President has come and one of the things that will happen is that we will put in place some specific processes that have to do with the encouragement of the business partnership between the two countries so that we can then drive this common challenge and process of addressing economic development in both countries because essentially we face very similar challenges.  The outcome of the visit of the President will therefore be the further strengthening and deepening of these relations at the political and economic level, the continental level, and indeed at the people to people level as well.

Welcome President and your delegation from Nigeria.

Remarks by President Umaru Yar’Adua

Thank you Mr President.

Let me behalf of myself and my delegation extend our sincere appreciation for your invitation and the wonderful and brotherly welcome we have received since our arrival here in South Africa.

We have had extensive discussions with Mr President on issues relating to the bilateral relations between Nigeria and South Africa.  And like Mr President has pointed out, it is our indication that this visit will catapult our relationship to the strategic level.  We must have a strategic partnership between Nigeria and South Africa.  We do appreciate in Nigeria and are proud that South Africa is now among the global emerging economies and in Nigeria we are taking measures to achieve just this and we believe that our two countries, coming together to expand our co-operation in all areas is significant for the development of the entire African continent, not just the two nations.

We have in place the necessary framework for a Strategic Partnership.  Like you said, Mr President, Nigeria has the highest number of bilateral agreements with South Africa.  What we need to do, what we have identified is that we need to work hard to ensure that we fully implement these agreements.  Once we do this our Strategic Partnership will be assured and we will continue to co-operate on the economic front, the political front, social and cultural fronts and with continuous visits by senior officials and delegations will ensure a very active Binational Commission.  The Binational Commission between South Africa and Nigeria has just met in Nigeria at the end of May and it will continue to meet annually and various sub-committees that consider all aspects of this partnership will continue to meet to work out various frameworks for agreements and details for the implementation of agreements we have signed.

I have also discussed with Mr President the issue of the xenophobia and Nigeria has expressed our deep sympathies, not only to the victims, but to the government and people of South Africa because we have experienced these issues in the past.  The government and the President have made a determined and committed effort to control and put a stop to the situation.  And this has set an example to other nations because this kind of situation could arise anywhere, anytime.  What is important is for the authorities to stand firm and uphold the principles that guide community and societal relations and reject this kind of behaviour and this is precisely what President Mbeki and the South African government and peoples have done.  I was saying to the President that while the other African countries official government actions are to deport brother and sister Africans here in South Africa, the government brought out troops to ensure that immigrants of African origin are protected from this kind of unfortunate behaviour.  I once again want to thank you Mr President for this determined and committed effort and your commitment to the comradeship of the African peoples and continent.

We have also discussed extensively, issues that affect, peace, security and development on the African continent and we have further resolved to continue to co-operate and provide leadership on these issues – seeking peace, stability and political security throughout our continent and we will continue to do that and we are aware of our moral responsibility to the entire continent and our sister African countries and we have discussed and resolved to do all we can to ensure we live up to expectations. 

We will also continue to co-operate and collaborate on multilateral issues that affect our two nations and affect the African continent. 

This visit is a watershed in the relations between South Africa and Nigeria and we are moving forward to ensure the establishment of a long-standing strategic partnership that will be of significance and importance, not only to our two nations but also to the Continent of Africa.

Thank you.

Questions and answers

Question President Mbeki, how will South Africa and Nigeria boost specific trade flows between the two countries?

Answer (President Mbeki) That is what I was saying, you see one of the things we want to do is to set up a team of business people from Nigeria and South Africa who would be familiar with each others environments and business conditions so that they can assist in unblocking these things which might be blocking better trade flows between the two countries.  That is also why I was saying that we, as South Africa, would look at whatever elements – in terms of our regulations here which might be blocking the intervention and participation of Nigerian companies in the South African economy. 

In the more global context of the binational commission, as the President has indicated, the commissions are going to be working actively to address these matters.  A Nigerian delegation will be visiting South African quite soon to investigate transport matters so that we can see what we can do.  There are many interventions of this kind that are going to take place.

Question President Thabo Mbeki, there have been reports that intelligence sources had realised that these attacks of xenophobic attacks were imminent for at least a year.  Why did the government of South Africa not act – did you not trust these reports or it was just lethargic in taking action?

Answer (President Mbeki) There were no such intelligence reports – of if so, they did not come to me, they may have come to you.  They were not submitted to me.  Had they been, off course, we would have acted upon them which indeed, as we did as soon as these eruptions occurred, that is why we were able to move the police as quickly as possible and then the military.  There were no such reports.

Question President Umaru Yar’Adua, could you say if you have changed your view with regard to Africom?  That it should be based in Nigeria?

Answer (President Yar’Adua) I am not sure whether you are not misinformed about Nigeria agreeing to host Africom.  I am sure you have been misinformed because there was a lot of misinformation.  On my visit to the United States when I had discussions with President Bush, I asked President Bush that with respect to Africom, what was required is for America to assist the African Union to establish the Africa Standby Force and also asked him to assist the Gulf of Guinea nations to establish the Gulf of Guinea guardforce.

Now, regarding this perception of this Africom, Africom is part of the United States of America defence policy – they have the Pacific command, the European Command (North Atlantic), the Middle East command, they have, I think, four commands and they have now established the Africa Command as part of this policy.

Before, if they have to deal with Africa in terms of defence issues, they did so unilaterally.  When they provide training and recruitment they do it from either the European, Middle East or Pacific commands. 

I think people need to realise, the Africa command does not have to do with African nations agreeing to anything.  It is a defence policy of the Defence Department of the United States and let me make it very clear that Nigeria, never, at any time even discussed the possibility of establishing the headquarters of the Africa command in Nigeria.  Whatever military assistance will now be provided will be provided through the Africa command and I asked President Bush for assistance in terms of training equipment and logistics to assist the African Union to establish the African standby force which is an African force consisting of a brigade from each of the regions and to assist the Gulf Guinea Nations to establish a guardpost under the Gulf of Guinea Nations to ensure the maritime security of our countries and that is why I asked President Bush for assistance.  I hope this is very clear.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

3 June 2008

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