The South African government has summoned the US ambassador to explain the issuance of a terror alert.
In a strong show of diplomatic displeasure, the government summoned the ambassador to the International Relations Department, to explain the circumstances surrounding the issuing of the alert.
The department, together with the State Security Agency (SSA), released a joint statement in which it accused the Americans of trying to undermine South Africa’s counter-terrorism efforts.
The department’s Clayson Monyela says the US embassy’s source lacked credibility.
“Alerts of that nature have the unintended consequences of causing panic and we have a responsibility to ensure that the information that we rely on, at the very least, has to be credible.”
He insists South Africa has good relations with America.
“We’ve taken the action to call in the US embassy to come and discuss this matter further so that we compare notes, but also express our displeasure in the manner in which this was handled so that going forward we avoid it.”
The British and Australian embassies which issued similar warnings have also been called to a meeting at the International Relations Department.
‘SA will issue threat alerts’
The government has made it clear to embassies based in the country that it is the South African government that will issue threat alerts to the public.
“We reject attempts to generate perceptions of government ineptitude, alarmist impressions and public hysteria on the basis of a questionable single source,” said the department’s spokesperson
Monyela says government is fully capable of protecting its citizens and foreigners in the country.
“We expect foreign embassies on our soil to follow the correct channels when communicating matters of such nature. Should the need arise, the South African government would be the first to inform the public about any imminent threat.”
‘No known militant groups operate in SA’
Security officials say no known militant groups operate in South Africa, which has seldom been associated with Islamist militancy.
No change to status
The US embassy in Pretoria has however responded in a statement affirming that there is no change to the status of the threat warning it issued.
The embassy said the message issued was based on specific, credible and non-counterable threat information.
Last Saturday, the United States warned its citizens of possible attacks by Islamist militants on US facilities or shopping malls in South Africa during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
South Africa to commence issuing 5-year visas to Nigerians
The South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Lulu Mnguni, has announced his government’s decision to commence the issuance of five-year visas to Nigerian professionals, business people and other frequent fliers.
Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos, Munguni said his government was now prepared to eliminate the difficulties usually faced by Nigerians when seeking South African visas.
The diplomat also said his government was moving away from having political diplomacy to more of economic diplomacy with Nigeria.
“There has been growing concerns from both Nigeria and South Africa on the issue of visas. There have been complaints by Nigerians on how they are treated when seeking visas,” he said.
“Our president has indicated that Nigeria and South Africa need to intervene by making it easier for our nationals to have visas to our two countries.
“We came to an agreement that business people and frequent fliers between South Africa and Nigeria will qualify for long-term visas of two, three, and five years. We have totally moved from political diplomacy to economic diplomacy. And to promote this new economic diplomacy, there needs to be a smooth movement of people between our two countries.”
Mnguni said he had made a proposal to his government for the recruitment of more staff, so as to be able to promptly attend to the demand of Nigerians for visas to South Africa.
According to him, Nigeria and South Africa’s inability to promote people-to-people relationships is responsible for the uninformed tension between them.
He said it was imperative for both countries to unplug some of the “irritants” that have undermined their cohesion.
“We need a friendship that resides with our people. Nigeria and South Africa need to criticize each other in a constructive way,” he said.
According to him, “We need to look at how we can unplug some of the irritants that have undermined our cohesion.”
South Africa is one of the leading destinations for Nigerians who travel abroad. A 2013 estimate put the number of Nigerians residing in the country at over 250,000.