Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

SA moves to placate Nigeria over yellow fever row

South Africa apologised to Nigeria on Thursday for deporting 125 Nigerians accused of trying to enter the country with fake vaccination certificates, seeking to defuse a growing dispute between Africa’s two biggest economies.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Ismail told a news conference the government had sent a letter of apology over the “regrettable incident” that spiralled into tit-for-tat expulsions of South Africans and a threat of action against South African companies in Nigeria.

Last week, officials at Johannesburg airport deported 125 Nigerians, saying their yellow fever vaccination certificates were fakes — the latest twist in a long-standing rivalry between the powers vying for dominance in the continent.

Nigeria responded with the deportation of 84 South Africans.

The government is not seeking an apology from Nigeria over the deportation of its citizens, Ebrahim told reporters, flanked by Nigerian diplomats.

“I understand the reaction of the Nigerians,” Ebrahim said, adding the incident would not affect bilateral relations.

Cards proving vaccination against yellow fever — a deadly mosquito-borne disease — are required by most African countries for entry but counterfeits are easy to buy from hawkers at Lagos airport. Relatively developed South Africa has better facilities to detect fakes than most countries on the continent.

Ebrahim did not say that the suspect certificates had in fact turned out to be genuine but said South African officials had acted in a way the “government believes could have been handled better”.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru has accused Pretoria of “xenophobia” towards migrants from the rest of Africa and threatened retaliatory measures, including some targeted at South African companies.

Nigeria is the biggest market for South Africa’s mobile operator, MTN. South Africa’s Shoprite and Standard Bank Group also have profitable operations there.

Nigeria and South Africa have been at odds diplomatically at the African Union several times, including over Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s and Côte d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo’s bid to stay in power last year.

South Africa backed Gbagbo and Gaddafi as counterweights to Western hegemony, even when the two men began killing opposition demonstrators, while Nigeria favoured intervention to oust them. — Reuters

Vote for an informed choice

We’re dropping the paywall this week so that everyone can access all our stories for free, and get the information they need in the run up to the local government elections. For the latest updates and political analysis, sign up to our daily elections newsletter.

If our coverage helps inform your decision, cast your vote for an informed public and join our subscriber community. Right now, a full year’s access is just R510, half the usual cost. Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Police were told to stop using shotguns before Julies murder

In both Marikana and the 2014 Brits protests, the police claimed ignorance about the use of banned birdshot ammunition

The Mail & Guardian speaks to two young independent candidates...

More than 445 000 people between the ages of 18 and 29 have registered to cast their vote in the Western Cape come 1 November

Local government elections: A review of the ANC, DA and...

As the three big parties make their last attempts to woo voters in this year’s local government elections, we look back at the promises in their manifestos

Appointment of ‘incompetent’ Mahikeng manager unlawful, court finds

Mike Mokgwamme, the high court ruled, was appointed to the crucial municipal manager post despite being the least qualified candidate

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…