Relations between Rwanda and South Africa are on the mends to the point that a top diplomatic source has told KT Press “something good” is cooking behind the scenes.
“There is massive progress and I know that sometime in May there will be final round of talks between the two sides to resolve whatever issues they have,” George Nkosinati Twala, South Africa High Commissioner to Rwanda told KT Press at his residence in the capital Kigali.
In 2014, diplomatic relations between the two countries turned sour – leading to the expulsion of diplomats from both Kigali and Pretoria over accusations that Rwanda had violated South Africa’s sovereignty. Rwanda refuted the allegations which had developed since 2010.
The following year, both countries agreed to turn the page of relations. South Africa sent a new diplomat to its mission in Kigali and Rwanda named a high profile face to man its mission in Pretoria.
However, only government officials carrying diplomatic and service passports are allowed to get visas to South Africa – leaving an obstacle to ordinary citizens including business people to visit Africa’s biggest economy.
With relations between Rwanda and South Africa still in the cold, High Commissioner Twala told KT Press, “It is a very regrettable development in terms of both our countries.”
Last year at the World Economic Forum on Africa held in Kigali, South African Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa was asked about the issue, to which he responded that relations were ‘cordial’. He said that the two countries were working to improve economic cooperation.
For High commissioner Twala, “It is the best thing that Heads of State of both countries, last year, asked the people involved in the negotiations to do as soon as possible. These negotiations take time but I have been updated that something good will come out by May.”
The envoy spoke to KT Press at celebrations to mark the South Africa Freedom Day. The event was attended by various dignitaries from government and business. Dr. Alexis Nzahabwanimana, State Minister for Infrastructure attended the event on behalf of government.
“Rwandans are good friends with South Africa,” he told guests adding, “a lot of good things have happened since 1999. We cannot wait to see our people start visiting their brothers and sisters as it was before.”
Early this month Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister and Government Spokesperson Louise Mushikiwabo said that despite the diplomatic deadlock influenced by local politics, ties between the two countries “are in a better place” now.
Meanwhile, at Freedom Day celebrations, High Commissioner Twala presented a sealed gift to the government containing images of the African Big five animals; the African lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard and rhinoceros.
The gift, Twala said, symbolizes that Rwanda will be given another boost in the wild game to improve tourism sector. Rwanda plans to get Rhinos from South Africa.
“Rwanda is doing well in Tourism, and we (SA) have a surprise announcement that will make Rwanda join the big five. We will make the announcement very soon. Probably this month of May” Twala told KT Press.
In 2015, Rwanda received seven lions from South Africa to re-introduce into Akagera National park. The five females and two males are a donation from Phinda and Tembe Elephant Reserves, both located in South African province of KwaZulu-Natal.
The lions’ population in Akagera has now grown to 20.