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South African embassies in Nigeria shut down amid threats
South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa [ENCA]
The South African embassies in Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria have been forced to shut down over threats of attacks from Nigerian protesters.

This is coming after two days of unrest in Lagos, Abuja and some other areas in Nigeria that has seen protesters target South Africa's strategic interests in the country in retaliation for xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.

South African mobs had launched attacks on foreigners, including Nigerians, and looted and burnt their places of business in suburbs of Johannesburg and surrounding areas on Sunday, September 1, 2019, and Monday, September 2.

The attacks have angered many Nigerians who have called for a boycott of South African businesses operating in Nigeria.

The spokesperson of South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Lunga Ngqengelele, disclosed on Thursday, September 5, that the embassies have been shut down out of concern for the safety of employees.

"Out of safety and concern for the employees of the embassy, a decision was taken that we temporarily shut down while we're assessing the situation," he said.

Ngqengelele also revealed that the South African government is in constant communication with the Nigerian government and has been assured of the protection of South African businesses in Nigeria.

Shoprite, a South African-owned supermarket franchise, had some of its stores attacked in Nigeria by protesters, some of whom also looted the supermarkets and several other stores, including those owned by Nigerians, late on Tuesday. One protester was gunned down by the Police.

Stores belonging to PEP and MTN, both South African-owned businesses, were also vandalised and looted by mobs in Lagos.

The protests continued on Wednesday, September 4 with protesters burning tyres on the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Road in Lugbe, Abuja just metres away from a locked Shoprite supermarket.

The Shoprite Group said some of its stores in Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia could not open for business on Wednesday due to protests and extensive damage done to them.

MTN also announced on Wednesday that all its stores and service centres will be closed until further notice after it suffered attacks in Lagos, Oyo and Akwa-Ibom states.

Despite the attacks, Ngqengelele said South Africa has the assurance of the Nigerian government that South African interests will be protected.

"Even yesterday (Wednesday), Police tried to quell the uprising from the Nigerians attacking the businesses.

"We understand that some of them were arrested and are pleased no loss of life was experienced. We hope that the Police will continue to protect us," he said.
Nigerian Police tightens security

Late on Wednesday, Nigeria's Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, ordered water-tight security around embassies, foreign missions, foreigners and their businesses within the country.

The Police Force also disclosed that a total of 125 suspects were arrested in connection with the lootings and are being investigated for stealing, malicious damage, arson and disturbance of public peace.

"Miscreants and criminally-minded people who masquerade as genuine protesters are therefore warned to stay-off the streets of Nigeria as the Force will not hesitate to bring to bear the full weight of the law on any such law breaker," Force spokesperson, DCP Frank Mba, said.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) announced on Wednesday it has arrested a total of 289 suspects since Sunday in connection to several incidents of public violence and looting.

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa has condemned the attacks and called for unity.

The recent attacks have put South Africa on a diplomatic tightrope with many countries, especially Nigeria.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday sent an unnamed special envoy to Ramaphosa to register his concerns over the attacks.

The Nigerian government also withdrew its participation from the World Economic Forum (WEF) hosted in South Africa. The summit started on Wednesday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced on Wednesday that it'll commence the evacuation of Nigerians who are willing to leave South Africa and return to Nigeria.

The evacuation, completely free of charge, will commence on Friday, September 6.

"Interested Nigerians are therefore advised to liaise with the High Commission of Nigeria in Pretoria and the Consulate General of Nigeria in Johannesburg for further necessary arrangement," ministry spokesperson, Ferdinand Nwonye, said in a statement.

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