The Republic of South Africa High Commission’s Consul General, Ambassador Amb. Mokgethi Monaisa has expressed the need for a violence-free and credible elections come February 14, 2015 in Nigeria.
The Consul General said he expects a display of togetherness among nationals, before, during and after the elections, concluding that Nigerians and the aspirants should uphold the values for which the country is known for and avoid any form of violence, intimidation or overbearing interferences to their choice in the forthcoming polls.
He also stated that Nigerians have a lot to do towards sustainable democratic rules, saying that it is imperative for Nigeria nationals to fully support democratic principles by not allowing themselves used as tools to generating unfair elections.
In this exclusive interview, Ambassador Monaisa also shared his thoughts on investments in Nigeria and South Africa, the similarities, and other issues. Excerpts:
By Vera Anyagafu, Prisca Duru &Victor Gotevbe
WHAT do you hope to see in Nigeria’s forthcoming elections?
Although, this would be the first elections I would be witnessing in Nigeria, I hope to see violent-free elections. I cannot say much on this election, because I do not know how elections are handled here, but I do hear that so many companies are sending their people out and more Nigerians who come to apply for visa also want to run out in panic, but this should not be the case. Normally, in so many countries people are eager to go and vote. In my country for instance, people jubilate during elections. People are always eager because you have the right to vote who you want. But here, I do not know if Nigerians themselves are afraid of the elections day.
Yet, I want to see people going to elect a person they want and they must be eager to do it. They must not be afraid to do it. They must not be intimidated into doing the things they would not want to do. They must have that freedom. We talked about the right to elect and that right goes with the freedom to choose who you want to be your leader. It is democracy. Nigeria has gone through many years of coups and democracy was ushered in 15 years ago, and it is important to sustain that democracy.
Sustenance of democracy
If you look at Nigeria, there is no way Nigeria would change from its current democracy status. Nigerians cannot even dream of letting go. We must see that whoever wins the polls is the person of their choice, people of their choice. We must see people rejoicing, people parting, celebrating the day they go to the polls to elect that leader they want. That is the kind of mood we want.
Since the exit of Nelson Mandela, do you see a leader emerging from South Africa possessing similar values as Nelson Mandela?
I am hopeful that we have leaders who carry similar values as Nelson Mandela. South Africa is a country that is rich with lots of leadership material within their ruling parties. And as you rightly pointed out, it might not be an identical twin of Nelson Mandela, but there would be a leader with great values also. I should also point out here that after Nelson Mandela, there was Thabo Mbeki. Thabo Mbeki was not a replica of Nelson Mandela, but he was good too. I hope that my country would continue to have such leaders, who are eager for a prosperous South Africa and her citizens.
How strong is South Africa partnership with Nigeria?
Our partnership is very strong and tight too and this is evidenced by our investment in Nigeria. There are so many South African companies that invested in Nigeria and a few of them that people know are Shop-rite, MTN, Multi-choice, South African airways, Stanbic, The Federal Palace Hotel, Protea Hotels, Southern Sun, Wheat-baker, and several others. South Africa has roughly over hundred companies doing business in Nigeria, and this prompted our government decision to establish a Consulate General here in Lagos. Obviously a consulate general mandate would then be to look after the citizens of South Africa and also protect their interests here in Nigeria. Previously, the office here was part of the High Commission in Abuja, and then the government decided to upgrade our presence here in Lagos.
How do South Africans in Nigeria celebrate historical events?
Well, every year we celebrate our national day in April 27. Our national day is not our independence day. South Africa got independence in 1961. Our history is such that our independence was left in the wrong hands. So we continued with our struggle for the elimination of apartheid. It was in 1990, that we saw the fruit of that struggle. Then in 1991, we held our first democratic elections. The date for that democratic election was in April 27. That was the first time a black person would come to the polls in South Africa.
After our National Day in April, we have another event known as the Mandela day. We dedicate a week to this event, and South Africans would, firstly, go and visit places and spend 67 minutes doing something good. It is 67 minutes of doing something good, because Mandela spent 67 years of his life, doing good to humanity. The United Nations adopted or recognized that day as Mandela’s birthday. It is called ‘Nelson Mandela international day’. It is celebrated all over the world. People are called upon to do something good to the people. They would go and spend 67minutes of their time doing something good to the people or the community.
In 2014, we held this Nelson Mandela event in Asaba, Delta State. Asaba has also become so important to us in the sense that, some two years ago, we inaugurated a garden, known as the ‘Nelson Mandela garden of 95 trees’ Dr. Newton Jibunoh was the initiator of that project. There, statue of Nelson Mandela was also unveiled, and his two grand children were there to witness the occasion. We have a good relationship with the government of Delta State.
South Africa also celebrates women’s month and within that month, we indulge in what we call ‘Pick a girl-child to work’. During the occasion, we partner with universities and companies, and then we take students to go and experience a work place. This helps these children to choose a pathway in life and at the end, the students will share their experience with others. There is also a festival in September, where South Africans in Lagos will participate in traditional Potjiekos competition.
How can you describe Nigeria-South Africa relationship?
It is important to note that we have so many South Africans here in Nigeria. And they are here because of the good relationships both countries share. There are also many Nigerians in South Africa. South Africa-Nigeria relations in key sectors of both countries economy, grow from strength to strength every year. Some would say Nigerians and South Africans are competing and if it is so, that means there is a healthy relationship going on between us. And this is so, because you need someone to compete with in order to progress and develop.