A statement issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) of South Africa, on its website yesterday, confirmed the phone call.
Relations between the two countries got strained in the last one week following the recall of Nigeria’s envoys in Pretoria and Johannesburg last Saturday by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Danjuma Nanpon Sheni.
Sheni was suspended by Jonathan over the recall without the approval of the presidency.
South Africa had expressed shock at the recall of the envoys and threw some jabs at the Nigerian government which it said it never blamed for the deaths of 84 of its citizens in the collapse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos.
“We did not blame the Nigerian Government for the deaths and more than nine (9) months delay in the repatriation of the bodies of our fallen compatriots, or for the fact that when these bodies eventually returned, they were in a state that they could not be touched or viewed as required by our burial practice,” it said in a statement issued by the spokesman, Mr. Clayson Monyela on Sunday.
“We shall also continue to support and not blame the Nigerian Government as it battles to deal with Boko Haram that continues to kill many innocent civilians. We hope that the more than 200 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram will someday be reunited with their families,” the statement added.
Even though the South African government had said it would raise its concerns over the recall of the envoys with the incoming administration, the telephone conversation between the two presidents may be an attempt to thaw the frostiness of the last few days.
The statement read in part: “The two presidents reaffirmed the warm and cordial relations between South Africa and Nigeria and pledged that the two countries will continue to work together for the good of their peoples and the continent as a whole.
“President Jonathan expressed his support for the efforts of South Africa to arrest the attacks on foreign nationals and to ensure the safety and security of all citizens, including foreign nationals and those from the African continent, in particular who bore the brunt of the attacks earlier this month.”
It added that President Zuma would attend the inauguration of President-elect Muhammadu Buhari on May 29.
Meanwhile, the South African government has distanced itself from the statement made by Monyela, on the recall of Nigeria’s envoys over the xenophobic attacks.
Briefing the media along with other members of the Inter-ministerial Task Team this week, the Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, said the statement was not the official position of the South African government and that South Africa maintains a cordial relationship with Nigeria.