Editorial: Giants must work together

South Africa is planning to release money that was confiscated from Nigerian officials last year when they arrived here with suitcases full of cash, intending to buy arms illegally. It is alarming that Pretoria is willing to subvert an ongoing criminal investigation in exchange for normalising relations with the new administration in Nigeria, led by the newly elected Muhammadu Buhari. We agree that defusing tensions between Abuja and Pretoria is important, but not at the expense of the rule of law.

Nigeria and South Africa have long competed for the position of the continental superpower. Relations between the two countries have mutated over the years, but they ended up in a state of cold war that got worse after Nigeria rebased its gross domestic product, the results of which made it the continent’s largest economy, seizing South Africa’s former top position. Recently, the jostling between the two nations seemed to be something other than genuine and healthy geopolitical competition; rather, it has looked like an egotistic, partisan rivalry between President Jacob Zuma and outgoing Nigerian leader Goodluck Jonathan.

This needs to stop. It is in South Africa’s best interests to work closely with Nigeria for both economic development and, most crucially, to defeat terrorism. Nigeria has seemed insufficiently organised, militarily, to face up to terror group Boko Haram, which has already exported its terrorism to neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon. This could have a ripple effect of destabilisation right across the continent.

A militarily strong Nigeria means a stable West Africa and the end of movements such as Boko Haram. Nigeria was once very militarily capable: it proved itself through its leadership of Ecomog, the multilateral West African armed force that helped to defuse the conflict in Sierra Leone in the 1990s. Moreover, a stable and economically booming Nigeria means that Boko Haram will find it difficult to recruit unemployed, frustrated young men.

South Africa also needs Nigeria – in our own national interest. First, South Africa needs access to Nigeria’s vast markets, as shown by the financial success of companies such as MTN in Lagos, and we can only achieve this economic goal if there is a stable Nigeria. Second, Pretoria needs an influential and trusted ally in multilateral forums. The one-time duet of Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo, formerly Nigeria’s leader, raised Africa’s voice and stature in global forums. Fragmented communication and lack of co-ordination by a weak African Union have resulted in policy disjunction and incompetence but, if we get it right, Africa’s economic powerhouses could considerably boost development on the continent.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Reinstated Ingonyama Trust managers hit with retrenchment notices

The effect of Covid-19 and the land reform department’s freeze of R23-million because the ITB didn’t comply with budget submissions are cited as some of the reasons for the staff cuts

Battle over R6bn workers’ retirement fund

Allegations from both sides tumble out in court papers

Nigeria’s anti-corruption boss arrested for corruption

Ibrahim Magu’s arrest by the secret police was a surprise — but also not surprising

Eskom refers employees suspected of contracts graft for criminal investigations

The struggling power utility has updated Parliament on investigations into contracts where more than R4-billion was lost in overpayments

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday