South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks to Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari (R) at the State House in Abuja, Nigeria

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa on Thursday night said that without the support of Nigeria, the country’s freedom would have come at a far greater cost.

Ramaphosa made the remarks during a state banquet organised in honour of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is on a three-day state visit to the former apartheid nation.

Relations between Nigeria and South Africa reached tipping point in August when xenophobic attacks affected dozens of Nigerians and their businesses, forcing the government to evacuate more than 300 people back home.

In anger, scores of Nigerians went on the rampage across the country, attacking South African businesses and anything associated with the ‘Rainbow’ nation.

But making efforts to heal the wound caused by that sad episode, Ramaphosa on Thursday highlighted the importance and significance of Nigeria to South Africa’s existence.

He said, “We owe our freedom to the people of Nigeria and the people of Africa.

“We pay tribute to Nigeria’s tireless support for the international campaign against apartheid.

“We will not forget how Nigeria spearheaded the call for political and economic sanctions against apartheid South Africa following the Sharpeville Massacre of March 21, 1960, which left many unarmed demonstrators dead.

“We will not forget the great sacrifices made by the Nigerian people in the 1970s and 1980s for the freedom that South Africans enjoy today.

“Without Nigeria’s support, our freedom would have come at a much greater cost.

“We will never forget the great debt we owe you and we will never allow the lawless actions of a few to undermine the bonds of friendship between our peoples.

“To concretise this, we have today inaugurated the first session of the Bi-national Commission presided over at Heads of State level, again symbolising the cordial and time-tested relations and the high esteem with which we regard our bilateral relations.”

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