South African President Jacob Zuma has condemned a spate of attacks on foreigners, calling it “shocking and unacceptable”.
Addressing the nation in Parliament on Thursday, he said no amount of frustration or anger could 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,” he said.
“Our country stands firmly against all intolerances such as racism, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism.”
Appeal for calm
He extended condolences to the families of those who had lost their lives and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
Zuma’s statement was in light of a spate of xenophobic attacks that begin in townships around Durban last week and spread to Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg. At least five people have been killed and scored injured.
He appealed for calm and an end to violence.
“Any problems or issues of concern to South African citizens must be resolved peacefully and through dialogue,” he said.
“The police have been directed to work round the clock to protect both foreign nationals and citizens, and to arrest looters and those committing acts of violence”.
He urged residents to assist police by providing information on incidents that had taken place so perpetrators could be brought to justice.
Concerns of citizens
Zuma said while he strongly condemned the attacks, he was sympathetic to the concerns of 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, city and villages,” he said.
The house applauded.
He emphasised that while some foreign nationals had been arrested for various crimes, it was misleading and wrong to label or regard all foreigners as being involved in crime.
“In addition, not all foreign nationals who reside in our country are here illegally.”
He thanks religious organisations and non-governmental organisations for their assistance and said the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees would also offer support.
“We look forward to celebrations of Africa Day in every province on the 25th of May”.