Issue 164 | 17 April 2015
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“The Freedom Charter says there shall be peace and friendship. Our responsibility is to promote this legacy of peaceful coexistence and take it forward."
On 16 April, President Jacob Zuma addressed the National Assembly on violence directed at foreign nationals.

“During the past week, we have witnessed shocking and unacceptable incidents of violence directed at foreign nationals in some parts of KwaZulu-Natal, which has now spread to some parts of Gauteng.

Similar incidents had taken place in Soweto in January.

“No amount of frustration or anger can ever justify the attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops.

“We condemn the violence in the strongest possible terms. The attacks violate all the values that South Africa embodies, especially the respect for human life, human rights, human dignity and Ubuntu.

“Our country stands firmly against all intolerances such as racism, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism.

“We extend our condolences to the families of all who have lost their lives and wish the injured a speedy recovery.

“We appeal for calm, an end to the violence and restraint. Criminal elements should not be allowed to take advantage of the concerns of citizens to sow mayhem and destruction.

“Any problems or issues of concern to South African citizens must be resolved peacefully and through dialogue.

“The police has been directed to work around the clock to protect both foreign nationals and citizens and to arrest looters and those committing acts of violence.

“We urge communities to assist the police by providing information on the incidents that have taken place in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.

“We thank religious leaders, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders who are providing humanitarian assistance to the displaced people.

“While we strongly condemn the attacks, we are aware of, and are sympathetic to some of the issues that have been raised by affected South African citizens.

“We reiterate our view that South Africans are generally not xenophobic. If they were, we would not have such a high number of foreign nationals who have been successfully integrated into communities all over our country, in towns, cities and villages.

“There are socio-economic issues that have been raised which are being attended to. These include complaints about illegal and undocumented immigrants in the country, the increase in the number of shops or small businesses that have been taken over by foreign nationals and also perceptions that foreign nationals commit or perpetrate crime.

“We wish to emphasise that while some foreign nationals have been arrested for various crimes, it is misleading and wrong to label or regard all foreign nationals as being involved in crime in the country.

“In addition, not all foreign nationals who reside in our country are here illegally. Many are in the country legally and contribute to the economy and social development of the country. Many bring skills that are scarce that help us to develop the economy and are most welcome to live in our country.

“Others came to South Africa as refugees having run away from conflict or wars in their countries of origin, in the same way that many South Africans left this country at some point and lived in other countries on the continent and beyond.

“We were treated with generosity, dignity and respect by our brothers and sisters from the rest of the continent. We will never forget that hospitality and solidarity.

“The support of the frontline states in southern Africa and that of the Organisation for African Unity were critical to the achievement of the freedom and democracy we are enjoying today.

“In this regard, government will continue to play its role and fulfil our responsibilities and obligations as members of the African Union and the United Nations (UN).

“Refugees and asylum seekers will be accorded support in line with international law and protocols, with the support of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“We appeal to our people to support and protect refugees and asylum seekers.

“During the weekend, I deployed the Ministers of Police, State Security and Home Affairs to work with the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government to quell the violence and bring the situation to normality. They have done well but the problem requires a much more comprehensive and sustainable long-term intervention.

“I have therefore assigned the entire Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster to work on this issue intensively, joined by the Ministers of Social Development, Trade and Industry and Small Business Development.

“The security cluster and economic departments had already begun working on this matter, following the Soweto incidents in January.

“I have now directed them to work faster and to engage affected communities, and organisations representing foreign nationals, business, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders to attend to the concerns raised on both sides.

“The objective is to avoid future incidents by improving relations and promoting peaceful co-existence between citizens and our brothers and sisters within the continent, as well as other foreign nationals.

“We will also be seeking cooperation and support from the affected foreign missions based in South Africa. The Minister of Home Affairs met with African Heads of Missions last week.

“The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation will take these discussions forward as well in her engagements with the African Heads of Missions tomorrow, on 17 April.

“We request Members of Parliament to work with us as well, in their constituencies, to improve relations and promote peaceful co-existence between our people and foreign nationals.

“Measures are also being put in place to improve controls and better regulate immigration into our country.

“In this regard, government is making progress with establishing the Border Management Agency, which will manage the border environment and all ports of entry.  

“The capacity of the Department of Home Affairs is being improved to enable it to better handle migration issues, especially at border posts.

“In this regard, the SANDF will transfer 350 soldiers to Home Affairs, to work as immigration officers at border posts.

“Furthermore, the SANDF has deployed military personnel along the borderline in seven provinces to prevent border crime activities and illegal border crossings.

“We urge all of you to exercise calm and restraint.

“We also urge those who use social media, to refrain from fanning the flames of violence on Facebook, twitter and other platforms.

“We all have a responsibility to promote social cohesion, peaceful co-existence and good relations in the country.

“Foreign nationals help us to develop a cosmopolitan atmosphere and we welcome their presence. We also want to see an increase in tourism figures from countries on the continent and to share a lot of business opportunities as part of promoting sustainable economic development on the continent.

“The upcoming Africa Month celebrations in May provide an opportunity for us to further promote our African identity and good relations with our brothers and sisters from the continent.

“We look forward to the celebrations of Africa Day in every province on 25 May.

“Bakwethu, siyakhuza sithi asehliseni imimoya.

Ukuhlaselwa kwabantu bokufika kulelizwe akwemukelekile neze.

“Sathola usizo emazweni amaningi ngesikhathi silwela inkululeko. Abazange basixoshe noma basihlukumeze.

“Siyazizwa izinkinga ezibekwayo njengokuthi abanye abangabokufika abanamvume yokuba seNingizimu Africa.

“Kubuye kukhalwe nangobugebengu obenziwa ngabanye bokufika kanye nokuthatha amathuba okuhweba nemisebenzi.

“Siyazizwa lezizikhalazo futhi sizozilungisa. Kodwa siyagcizelela ukuthi akukho okungenza udlame lolu lwamukeleke. Siyalugxeka kakhulu.

“Njengohulumeni siyayisebenza indaba yokuqinisa ezokuphepha emingceleni ukuze abantu bangangeni ngokungekho emthethweni ezweni. Sesitshale namasosha ukuze asize umnyango wezasekhaya, kuloludaba.

“Let us work together to provide support to all foreign nationals who have been affected by this violence.

“The Freedom Charter says there shall be peace and friendship. Our responsibility is to promote this legacy of peaceful coexistence and take it forward.

“We also reaffirm our responsibility to contribute to a better Africa and a better world.

“Let us work together to make our country a better place for all who live in it.”
“It is therefore with a deep sense of pain and regret that we as the South African Government humbled ourselves before the African diplomatic community in our meeting with them today; and we expressed, through them, our heartfelt apologies to the African continent and people for the actions of those of our citizens who have behaved in a shameful manner."

On 17 April, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, addressed the African Heads of Diplomatic Missions accredited to South Africa on government’s efforts to address the spate of attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa.

A media briefing was held following the Minister’s interaction with the Heads of Mission.

At the briefing, Minister Nokana-Mashabane said that she invited members of the diplomatic community accredited to South Africa, in particular African Heads of Mission, to assure them of government’s commitment to maintaining peaceful co-existence between South African citizens and others nationals who live in South Africa.

“We said to the African Heads of Mission that the violent attacks against foreign nationals in some parts of the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng are despicable and that the South African Government condemns them in the strongest terms possible.

“As directed by President Zuma, the Government is implementing a series of measures aimed at bringing an immediate halt to all the violence, looting and displacement of individuals and families.

“We took the African Diplomatic Corps into confidence on the practical measures that are being taken by the security agencies to bring to justice those who are responsible for the violence and related criminal acts.

“In the new Constitution of our free and democratic South Africa, we made a promise to ourselves and to the world that we would remain committed to the values of human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms, non-racialism, non-sexism and the rule of law.

“Furthermore, at the core of our foreign policy is the commitment we have made to the world that we will always prioritise Africa in all our endeavours because we are an integral part of the African continent. 

“South Africa’s transition to democracy was one of the world’s most iconic testimonies of tolerance and peaceful co-existence.

“It is therefore with a deep sense of pain and regret that we as the South African Government humbled ourselves before the African diplomatic community in our meeting with them today; and we expressed, through them, our heartfelt apologies to the African continent and people for the actions of those of our citizens who have behaved in a shameful manner.

“The South African Government will also do everything within its power to ensure the safety of all citizens and foreign nationals irrespective of their status. South Africa is a multicultural society that welcomes and promotes interaction among people of different backgrounds. 

“As you may be aware, South Africa is a signatory to various international obligations that protect foreign nationals and refugees, including the Geneva Protocol on Refugees. As a signatory to this Protocol, and as a country that cherishes human rights, we have to protect the basic rights of every human being within our borders, including foreign nationals.

“President Jacob Zuma has on a number of occasions provided his leadership on this matter by publicly condemning the unwarranted violent attacks on foreign nationals, the looting of their business premises and appealed for calm and tolerance across the country.

“The President has also directed the Security Cluster and the Economic Cluster Ministers to undertake a number of practical steps, including measures announced in Parliament yesterday, to prevent further attacks and devise ways of maintaining long-term peace and stability in the relations between South African citizens and migrants from fellow African countries.

“Government is encouraged by the united stance against the violent attacks against foreign nationals by ordinary South Africans, as well as political parties, the faith-based community and other non-state actors.

“South Africa will not forget the hospitality and support we received from fellow Africans during the difficult times of our anti-apartheid liberation struggle. During this time, it was Africa that opened its doors and became home for many South Africans who fled the persecution of the apartheid government.

“It is in this regard that South Africa has since the advent of democratic governance in 1994, worked cordially with fellow African countries to consolidate bilateral relations that are flourishing politically, economically and socially.

“Ubuntu is the central concept of social and political organisation in the African global outlook, consisting of the principles of sharing and caring for one another. This is better captured in the Sepedi adage Motho ke motho ka batho, which means, generally speaking, that to be human is to affirm one’s humanity by recognising the humanity of others and establish mutually respectful relations with them.

“As I conclude, let me reiterate the commitment of the South African Government, working in partnership with sister African states and people, to address underlying causes of this recurring challenge in our society with a view of seeking sustainable long-term solutions.”

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