In an expected move, Rwanda’s foreign affairs minister Dr Richard Sezibera has congratulated his new South African counterpart Dr Naledi Pandor.
Fresh from reelection as South Africa leader, President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday late night named his cabinet.
Dr Pandor was given the International Relations and Cooperation docket, replacing Lindiwe Sisulu who has recently had a very difficult relationship with the Government of Rwanda.
Dr Sezibera wrote on Twitter: “Congratulations @NalediPandor fr appointment as Minister @DIRCO_ZA. I look forward to working with you to strengthen relations between our two countries.”
The South African top diplomat also responded: “Thank you minister … looking forward to meeting you …”
Dr Pandor was previously Minister for Higher Education.
Allocated a new docket, Sisulu, the daughter of African National Congress (ANC) veteran Walter Sisulu, found herself in a confrontation relationship with Rwandan officials who have accused her of sabotaging efforts to restore Kigali-Pretoria relations.
There was visible celebration on social media in Rwanda when news started coming in of a new South African foreign minister.
Sisulu is accused of using her office to advance the agenda of Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa’s Rwanda National Congress (RNC) dissident group based in South Africa.
South Africa has banned visas for Rwandans, despite many South African firms operating in Rwanda – including dominant telecom MTN Group.
SA expelled many of Rwanda’s diplomats after death of one dissident and failed attempts on others.
At some point recently, Sisulu spoke at her department’s weekly press conference that she had met Gen Nyamwasa and that he was ready for talks with Government of Rwanda – a no go issue for Kigali.
Following those comments, a social media campaign ensued, backed by obsecure websites, with one article calling Sisulu a “whore”. The comment prompted angry reaction from Sisulu’s office.
All this took place after several meetings between Kagame and Ramaphosa from which positive statements have been made.
President Paul Kagame himself came out strongly saying “someone” in the SA government had ignored “clear instructions” from President Ramaphosa to work on improving Rwanda relations.
“So here there’s a bizarre situation,” Kagame told a South African paper in March. “Someone in the government of South Africa would rather associate with those bad groups living in South Africa who have a bad history and have done terrible things which they should be held accountable for. They prefer that, and use their authority to even go further to try to create problems for us.”
Kagame attended the inauguration of Ramaphosa this past weekend, and by what looked like had been intended, sat next to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. They could be seen exchanging throughout the event.
Museveni’s government is accused by Kigali of funding Gen Nyamwasa’a activities, and together with Burundi, providing recruits for his “P5” rebel group based in DR Congo.
Rwanda and Uganda are currently in a serious standoff, with no signs of the situation improving soon.