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Mandela, Abacha to solve row personally

PRESIDENT Nelson Mandela and Nigerian military dictator General Sani Abacha will personally resolve the latest diplomatic row between the two countries, presidential spokesman Parks Mankahlana said on Monday.

The row follows a statement last week by Nigerian information minister Walter Ofonagoro that SA is “a white country with a black head of state” after accusing SA of being at the centre of anti-Nigerian propaganda. The statement enraged the African National Congress, which demanded an apology for the “slight to the integrity” of Mandela.

Mankahlana said Mandela had taken note of Ofonagoro’s remarks in the media and approved steps by the foreign affairs ministry and South African High Commission in Lagos “to solicit a response from the Nigerian authorities which will further strengthen ties between SA and Nigeria.”

“President Mandela believes that the information minister may not be aware of the close contact and cordial exchanges that have recently been taking place between him [Mandela] and General Sani Abacha,” added Mankahlana.

In a diplomatic note to Nigeria’s foreign affairs ministry last week, the South African government objected to Ofonagoro’s “serious and unprovoked attack” and asked for “immediate clarification”. The note added: “An apology to President Mandela and the people of South Africa would seem reasonable”. No apology has yet been forthcoming.

However, Mankahlana said: “Whereas the South African goverment has asked for this apology, a delayed response by the Nigerian authorities would not be unwelcome considering that President Mandela and General Sani Abacha will at the earliest convenience definitely resolve this matter among themselves.”

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