The South African High Commissioner to Rwanda, George Nkosinati Twala has said that there is good progress in rebuilding stronger ties between Rwanda and South Africa.
Twala, while speaking at South Africa Day in Kigali – April 26th, summarized a history of South Africa and Rwanda relations, the turning point that was reached four weeks ago and the promising progress.
He referred to events of March 20, 2018 where South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa made serious comments on the long standing Rwanda-South Africa political tensions and visa limitations which have been around since 2014.
“Consider Rwanda-South Africa visa issue, as a matter that is solved. We are working with President Paul Kagame to put relations between Rwanda and South Africa on a much better footing,” Ramaphosa said amidst applause from the audience in Kigali.
Ramaphosa was attending the historic signing of Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. On the same occasion, he held bilateral talks with President Paul Kagame.
According to Twala, consultations continued as recent as last week.
He said President Kagame and President Ramaphosa briefly met at the at the sidelines of Commonwealth meeting in London to discuss further details on relations between the two countries giving new responsibilities to both foreign ministries to expedite this process.
Twala said that so far, there are two critical areas that are into consideration between the foreign affair arms of both countries; working on sovereignty and mutual respect, and harmonizing security systems – with the latter being a central issue for consideration in free movement.
“I promised last year and there was a lot of expectation but it didn’t happen that way. But believe me, this time it’s going to happen,” Twala said during the celebrations of South Africa Day.
He further said that the signing of the AfCFTA agreement is already a major step that both countries see as an opening to a deeper Pan African and bilateral relationship.
“AfCFTA cannot advance until this matter is resolved, free movement cannot advance until this matter is resolved. Now that Rwanda is chairing the African Union (AU)…We have reached an extent where we cannot delay this anymore even with the petty issues,” Twala stated.
Rwanda’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe said that beyond the visa restrictions there is more work to be done in order to build the future of the two countries to attain the AU agenda 2063 on integration.
According to Nduhungirehe, both foreign ministries “have already set a direction and a plan to work on in order to implement, as soon as possible, what both presidents asked of them.”
As a sign of good faith and intention to continue build relations between Rwanda and South Africa, Ambassador Twala presented sealed Zulu traditional symbolic gifts to the government as a sign of a strong cultural bond and shared history between the two countries.