Media Briefing on progress made by the South African Government to bring an end to attacks against foreign nationals, 19 April 2015, GCIS, Pretoria
Directors-General and Heads of other institutions present
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen
Fellow South Africans
Good morning to you all,
Welcome to a briefing to provide an update on the work that government is doing to bring an end to violence, looting and displacement directed at people from other countries who live in South Africa.
Government continues to condemn the violence
We would like to start by reiterating the South African government’s condemnation of the callous acts of violent attacks and looting that have been witnessed in the past week, particularly in KZN and recently in Gauteng.
We once again unequivocally condemn the maiming and killing of our brothers and sisters from other parts of the continent. No amount of frustration or anger can justify these attacks and looting of shops. South Africa fought against colonialism and Apartheid system alongside with our fellow Africans from the continent and the world at large. As a nation let us not forget the hospitality that was bestowed on us. The law enforcement agencies will do whatever it takes to restore law and order within our communities.
Our actions have gone beyond condemnations. We have taken critical interventions which we will share with you.
President Zuma hands-on in dealing with attacks
President Zuma appointed the Ministers of State Security, Home Affairs and Police to spearhead the government response to the violence. The team was further strengthened when the President tasked the whole JCPS Cluster as well as the Ministers of DIRCO, Small Businesses, Trade and Industry and Social Development.
To demonstrate the serious nature with which our government views the violence against foreign nationals, President Jacob Zuma has cancelled his visit to Indonesia. Yesterday the President visited displaced foreign nationals in Chatsworth to assure them of our support as government of South Africa. The President also engaged with the Umlazi community to spread the message of peace and tolerance. He will, in the next week, lead a stakeholder outreach programme around the country to engage communities to start a conversation within our society.
On-going engagements to end violence
Government re-iterates that attacks on any fellow human beings and destruction of property as well as looting are criminal offences and will not be tolerated. As a team of Ministers assigned by President Zuma we have been working closely with the KZN Provincial Government to arrest the violence. We have in the past week been involved in numerous stakeholder engagements in the communities affected. Meetings have been held with church leaders to appeal to them to preach a message of peace and to ask their followers not to take part in violence.
The Ministers also participated in the peace march led by Premier Senzo Mchunu where thousands of people marched to demonstrate their opposition to the violence. Engagements are on-going with religious leaders, cultural organisations as well as civic structures to build a society-wide front against the violence.
Meeting with diplomats from other African countries
The Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, met with the representatives of the African countries. This was followed up by Minister of International Relations, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, meeting the members of the African diplomatic community. This was to assure them of our commitment to ensure peaceful co-existence between South African citizens and people from other African nations who live in South Africa. During the Apartheid many South Africans fled persecution and death at the hands of the Apartheid government. Africa opened its doors and became a home away from home for many South Africans. The Diplomatic Community has been assured of our commitment to resolve the tensions and to continue to build our relations with Africa.
Social Development, Reintegration, Health and Humanitarian Services
The Department of Social Development has provided food, shelter and other necessities to at least 1026 displaced persons in shelters in both Gauteng and KZN. Trauma counselling and debriefing services are being provided to individuals on site at the shelters. Specialised services to children in need of care and protection, including Early Childhood Development Programmes are being provided in Isipingo and Chatsworth. Government is working closely with civil society to provide all possible support to the displaced as they await reintegration back into their communities. Social Development, COGTA and Community Safety are facilitating Community Dialogues in areas such as Umlazi and Chatsworth to ensure a smooth reintegration process.
We would like to thank the non-governmental organisations who continue to provide food to the displaced persons in areas like Isipingo, Chatsworth and Greenwood Park.
We request those who require to speak to a social worker for assistance and counselling to make use of the Social Development trauma counselling toll free number: 0800 428 428
Government continues to work closely with foreign missions in South Africa to ensure that displaced persons receive all possible support.
Perpetrators are being arrested, charged and prosecuted
We would to take this opportunity to commend members of the law enforcement agencies who acted decisively to prevent bloodshed between two aggressive groupings at the Durban CBD. We believe that their commitment to duty has prevented injuries and even deaths that could have happened if they security forces had not acted.
Our law enforcement officers on the ground are working very hard to ensure that those who are involved in acts of violence are arrested, charged and convicted. So far, 307 suspects have been arrested in connections with attacks on foreigners and public violence across the country.
Government condemns fear mongering
In the past few days, we have noted a new phenomenon of people who make use of social media to instil fear in different parts of the country. They have been sending out fictitious SMS and WhatsApp messages with fictitious and photo-shopped images warning people of eminent attacks. We would like to thank media who have been responsible in reporting the matter accurately without sensationalism.
These messages appear to be orchestrated by elements bent on taking advantage of the unease in communities and instil fear amongst the people. Government re-iterates its resolve to stamp all acts that seek to plunge our country into anarchy. The misinformation that has been happening in the social media should be condemned by all peace loving South Africans and foreign nationals living in our country. Government calls on those who are involved in such acts to stop it. Everyone should exercise their right to enjoy their normal, everyday freedoms. Our security agencies are on the ground and there will be no bus or train of any kind coming to attack them.
As Government, we remain alert. Any credible information that suggests an eminent threat against any community, South Africans will be officially advised by the relevant authorities. We would not communicate through WhatsApp messages and anonymous SMSs.
Security agencies up to the task
The National Joint Operational Centre (NATJOC) continues to operate on a 24-hour basis to coordinate the government-wide response to this situation. Provincial Joint Operational Structures (PROVJOCS) have also been activated to monitor and curb any potential threats across the 9 provinces of the country. We are constantly reviewing our security arrangements, assessing the current environment and determining what additional measures may be required. At this point, we are satisfied that the security measures that are currently in place are sufficient to bring the situation under control.
Government appeals to the leaders of various sectors of our society to echo government’s call on the people to refrain from any activities that may undermine peace, security and stability of our country.
South Africa remains committed to address some of the issues that have been raised by communities.
South Africa is amongst one of the most diverse countries in the world, culturally and economically. We celebrate our diversity.
As the team of Ministers appointed by the President, the priority is to restore peace and order within the country. Additionally, as Justice Crime Prevention Security Cluster Ministers supported by Minister of Small Business Development, Social Development as well as Trade and Industry, we have been tasked to address the issues that seem to have caused tensions within the community. South Africa remains a country that welcomes foreign nationals who contribute to the economic growth of the country and the Continent.
To the countries that continue to invest in South Africa, we want to re-assure them that South Africa is a constitutional democracy governed by laws. Investors are welcome to do business in South Africa. Everything is being done to restore peace and order. Government will enforce the laws of the country and will not hesitate to act speedily and decisively on any criminal activity committed by or against a foreign national or citizen of South Africa or those found to incite violence.
Stern warning to instigators and those who participate
We also want to issue a stern warning to those who lend themselves to acts of public violence. We will find you and you will be dealt with to the full might of the law. You will be arrested and sentenced accordingly. We warn especially young people as having a criminal record can disrupt their lives.
We urge people with information on plans to cause violence or those who have witnessed acts of violence, to contact one of the operational centres, either in the relevant province or at national level:
Finally, we would like the overwhelming support of South Africans who have stood as true South African ambassadors and reflected the South African spirit of Ubuntu. In various parts of the country, community members have stood in defence of foreign nationals living amongst them. We have also noted messages of support, condemnation and solidarity on social media. This provides testimony that the overwhelming majority of South Africans are against the violent attacks against our brother and sisters from other African countries.
Ms Phumla Williams