South African President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday urged all sections of society, including business, religious and civic organisations, to work towards eradicating violence in the country.
Zuma was speaking after meeting with stakeholders in Pretoria on how various stakeholders can work with the government to promote orderly migration and good relations between citizens and foreign nationals.
He said, “So the issue we’re dealing with today, was what is it that we are all going to do as a country, as citizens, as different sectors, to ensure that it will never happen again.” Zuma warned against indiscriminate use of the word “xenophobia” in context of the recent violence.
“There is violence here that nobody has forgotten. Political violence here you couldn’t say was xenophobic, xenophobia.
“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,” Zuma said.
“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,” he added.
Zuma said Wednesday’s meeting dealt with South Africa’s immigration legislation and how the country integrates refugees.
He added, “We have immigration laws that are unique in a sense because the way we handle refugees and is not by creating camps but by integrating them into society.”
He said that the government had in the past ruled out the possibility of setting up refugee camps.
But following the latest spate of violence, the government has set up camps in Durban and Johannesburg to house thousands of displaced refugees. “The challenge of migration requires a long-term solution. In this regard, I have established an inter-ministerial committee to work systematically, looking at all aspects of migration,” Zuma added.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Sunday that his ministry would introduce a Green Paper on the new policy framework by next year. Gigaba said the government needed to review the immigration policy framework.
At the Wednesday meeting, representatives from religious and civic organisations as well as business and labour have all committed to helping the government halt the violence.
The discussions came on the heels of recent inflammatory comments made by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini and Zuma’s son, Edward, which allegedly sparked the attacks on foreigners. Both men allegedly said foreigners should leave the country, local media reports said.
The meeting also was intended to foster good relations between South African citizens and foreign nationals, the Presidency said.
“The meeting is part of building lasting partnerships with stakeholders in the country to ensure that the shameful attacks on foreign nationals do not recur in the country. Foreign nationals have for years been successfully integrated into many communities in the country and government thus seeks to gain lessons from these successes,” presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj said.
South Africa Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Tuesday she would deploy army troops to assist police in dealing with sporadic attacks that engulfed the cities of Durban and Johannesburg recently.
At least seven people have been killed and thousands of foreigners displaced in the violence that first erupted in Durban in late March.