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UN ambitions seen straining Nigeria, SA relations

29 April 2015, 10:11Savious Kwinika

Johannesburg - 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.

Also Read: Xenophobia row exposes rivalry between SA and Nigeria

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.

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.

Also Read:SA opposition calls for amicable solution to SA, Nigeria row

Mugabe is a veteran of all regions.

His nation contributed significantly to bring about peace in East Africa (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, 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,” said an analyst.

Social commentator, Salatiel Mavevesere 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 Mavevesere.

Also Read: Zuma hits back over anti-immigrant violence

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 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, 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 with fellow Africans in harmony," Felani said.

- CAJ News


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