Picture: GALLO IMAGES/LISA HNATOWICZ
Picture: GALLO IMAGES/LISA HNATOWICZ

The SA high commission in Abuja and its consulate in Lagos, Nigeria have been closed following threats of violence, the department of international relations confirmed on Thursday.

Both offices were closed on Tuesday, department spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said.

“This followed the receipt of threats against the mission staff as well as the property of SA. After extensive consultations with relevant stakeholders as well as a security assessment of threats, the mission and the department took the decision to close the offices,” he said.

Ngqengelele, however, said there had been no direct physical threat to any diplomats or citizens. The decision to close the two offices was a precautionary measure, he added.

He said international relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor expressed displeasure at misleading reports circulating on social media about a direct physical attack on the acting head of mission.

“These reports are totally false, as are reports of vandalism at the commission in Abuja and the consulate in Lagos. It is established tradition in foreign policy that diplomatic missions should enjoy protection from the host country and while we remain perturbed at the threats directed at our missions, we are grateful to note that the security forces and the government of Nigeria are upholding this long-established practice of foreign policy,” he said.

Residents have been going on the rampage across Johannesburg, looting foreign-owned businesses in Tembisa, Alexandra, Hillbrow, Cleveland, Jeppestown and the Johannesburg CBD since Sunday. The violence continued during the week spreading to other areas, including Germiston on the East Rand and Thokoza. Similar violence also took place in the Pretoria CBD last week.

Gauteng police said they had arrested 289 people so far. Seven people had reportedly been killed.

MTN and MultiChoice closed their stores in Nigeria on Wednesday after they came under attack, while Shoprite’s stores at home and in Zambia and Nigeria were shut after being damaged in retaliation to xenophobic attacks in SA.

Ngqengelele said the department had received reports of marches to SA companies as well as attempts to attack them. The department has asked senior managers to remain in contact with it and the ministry.

He said the department and the ministry would remain in constant contact with SA representatives and would continue to assess the situation on the ground and provide feedback as new information becomes available.

Pandor is planning to meet the African heads of mission to SA next week.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za