JOHANNESBURG – South Africa President Jacob Zuma and his Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe have been asked to openly declare and publicly condemn attacks on foreign nationals in the neighbouring country.
Speaking during a discussion on xenophobia on Thursday in Johannesburg, Mkhululi White of the International Protection of Foreign Business and Citizens called on authorities to stop encouraging attacks on foreign nationals.
“We condemn some leaders who are encouraging such human rights violation acts,” White said.
Earlier this year, various parts of Gauteng – Soweto, Ekurhuleni and the south of Johannesburg – were engulfed in violent attacks on foreign nationals whose shops were also looted. Several people died during the attacks.
In a recent incident, foreign nationals in KwaZulu-Natal were attacked days after Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini called for the deportation of foreign nationals living in the country, saying it was unacceptable that locals were made to compete with people from other countries for the few economic opportunities available.
Human rights activist Elinor Sisulu yesterday appealed to all political leaders to measure their words and think of the consequences before they spoke.
Referring to Mugabe’s State visit to South Africa this week, Sisulu accused leaders of having discussions about things not relevant to the masses.
“Mugabe was here and held meetings with President Jacob Zuma, but I can bet the issue of xenophobic attacks was never on the agenda,” Sisulu said.
African Diaspora Forum chairperson, Marc Gbaffou, said xenophobia was not different from apartheid.
“We are all Africans and it is important for all of us to work together,” he said.
Mugabe’s State visit ended on Thursday and the veteran ruler only thanked South Africa for employing Zimbabweans without making reference to the xhenophobic attacks.
Meanwhile, Mthwakazi Youth Leader’s Joint Resolution president Mqondisi Moyo said it was unfortunate that Mugabe chose to skirt xenophobic attacks during his visit to South Africa.
“Mugabe was being diplomatic. “The generality of Zimbabweans expected him to tackle the xenophobic attacks openly and condemn them as the attacks were not only affecting Zimbabweans but other nationals,” Moyo said.
“It’s also surprising why he thanked South Africa and Zuma in particular for being hospitable to our own people.
“It exposed him in that his own country is not hospitable hence people are flocking to South Africa.
“Mugabe and Zuma could have discussed the issue behind closed doors but there is no assurance they did.”
However, political analyst Alexander Rusero said Mugabe should be commended for his diplomacy on sensitive issues.
“It would not have been timely for him to address the matter in public,” he said.
“That would have angered South African citizens and the government. Zimbabwe is eager to strategically position itself as a reliable neigbour.”
The exact number of Zimbabweans in South Africa is not known, but some estimates put them at over three million. — Citizen/ Chief Reporter