South Africa, Rwanda patch up ties with Kigali-bound envoy

Saturday January 25 2020

Mandisi Mpahlwa is widely tipped be Pretoria’s new ambassador to Rwanda. PHOTO | COURTESY | DTI SA


South Africa has appointed a new ambassador to Rwanda, ending almost one year of no representation in the country.

In December 2018, the South African ambassador to Kigali, George Nkosinati Twala, was summoned to Pretoria, and later permanently recalled in February 2019, following a bitter exchange between diplomats from both countries.

Rwanda’s State Minister for Regional Affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe, confirmed to The EastAfrican that Rwanda had accredited the new ambassador but could not disclose his name, noting that Rwanda does “not have control on the actual date that he will arrive in Kigali.”

The South African government also remained tight-lipped about when the new ambassador is likely to take office even as both countries agreed on who it will be.

However, highly placed sources in both governments confirmed to The EastAfrican that seasoned politician, Mandisi Mpahlwa, 60, was nominated and accredited as the new South African ambassador to Rwanda in October last year, and is expected to arrive in Rwanda and take his oath of office “anytime soon.”

Mr Mpahlwa, currently serves as the South African envoy to Mozambique and his tenure there is coming to an end this year.


He has previously served as Minister of Trade and also served in various government positions since 2004.

The embassy in Kigali has not provided visa services to Rwandan nationals since 2014. The service was suspended after a falling out following the murder of Col Patrick Karegeya in a hotel in Johannesburg on the eve of New Year 2014.

Relations worsened last year when South African prosecutors pointed a finger at Rwanda and all four suspects in Karegeya’s murder were named as Rwandan nationals.

Five years later, the relations have improved.

“Our relations with South Africa are good. We have had issues in the past but we are working to solve them. Our new ambassador to South Africa was received very well in Pretoria and their ambassador-designate to Rwanda has already received a go-ahead,” Mr Nduhungirehe added.

“We are working on solving issues including visa issuance to Rwandans and overcoming the negative RNC forces residing in South Africa.”

In October 2019, President Paul Kagame received Jeff Radebe, the Special Envoy to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. After that, presidents Kagame and Ramaphosa met in Sochi, Russia, and held private talks on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit.

In July 2019, Rwanda had replaced long serving ambassador to South Africa Vincent Karega—who had served in Pretoria since 2012—with Eugène Kayihura. The shake-up aimed at freshening diplomatic relations with South Africa.