South Africa will resume issuing of visas to Rwandans after nearly four years, signalling a thawing of relations between the two countries.
Responding to a question on restriction of travel for Rwandans even as Africa moves towards creating a free trade area, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said “consider it as a matter that is solved.”
President Ramaphosa is in Rwanda ahead of the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) on Wednesday.
The South African leader met with President Paul Kagame on the sidelines of the African Union summit on Tuesday, where the two agreed to mend the strained relations that nearly severed since 2014.
“We have been talking with President Kagame and we have decided that we are going to put the relationship between South Africa and Rwanda on a much better footing, and the gaps and the challenges that we have had are going to be resolved,” he said.
Mr Ramaphosa said Foreign Affairs ministers of the two countries – Lindiwe Sisulu and Louise Mushikiwabo – had been tasked with working to resume the visa processing.
“They are going to work on this and bring us solutions. President Kagame and I are going to just sign off what the two sisters are going to the table,” he said cheekily amid ululations.
Bilateral ties between Rwanda and South Africa soured in 2014 after the two countries expelled each other’s diplomats.
Pretoria sent away Rwandan diplomats it suspected of planning attacks on Rwandan dissidents in South Africa and Kigali retaliated by expelling South African diplomats in the country, leading to a near-severing of diplomatic ties.
Both countries however maintained embassies and ambassadors in place but with no diplomatic staff. However, since 2016, the two countries have been trying to restore relations but at a slow pace. Despite reappointing diplomats, South Africa is yet to appoint a visa official to Kigali.