Johannesburg – South Africans do not just attack foreigners, they have a history of violence, President Jacob Zuma has said.
He also urged that the word “xenophobia” not be used “excessively” because it would give the impression that most South Africans were xenophobic, when he said they were not.
Zuma addressed journalists following a meeting of business, religious, labour and civil society leaders at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Pretoria on Wednesday.
“No one can say South Africans attack foreigners only,” Zuma said in reply to journalists’ questions.
“We have a history that these things happen. There is violence here that nobody has forgotten. Political violence here you couldn’t say was xenophobic, xenophobia.
“At some point I was giving an example, I was explaining to someone who was doing research to say, that research was not accurate to say the majority of South Africans are xenophobic. We are not.
“What I was saying is you can’t interpret when people are fighting from that simple logic, for example in Johannesburg you know at times the entire Soweto was fighting the hostels where the majority was Zulus, and you couldn’t say that was xenophobic.
“Some of these things were manipulated by those who were in charge at the time. But there was a lot of violence in KwaZulu-Natal amongst Zulus, would you say they were xenophobic? I don’t think we should use this simple word because it is easy to use, excessively, because it gives the wrong impression that South Africans are xenophobic. We are not. There are a minority, and we will deal with that.”
Zuma also said the incident in Alexandra last week, when Mozambican Emmanuel Sithole, was brutally stabbed in pictures published on the front page of the Sunday Times, was “purely criminal” but because “it happened at the time of the xenophobic attacks, it is now said this is how we kill people in South Africa”.
Zuma again warned that these incidents be investigated so that they could be reported “appropriately”.
Zuma said he was confident his new initiative, which amongst others consists of a cabinet committee, would help quell the violence this time around and stop xenophobic attacks for good.