South Africa is to embark on anti-xenophobic public campaigns to educate its citizens against attacks on foreigners, especially Africans, the government told African diplomats at a meeting in Pretoria.
International Relations Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu met with the diplomats to discuss the regular occurrences of targeted violence against foreign African nationals in South African townships. She was Joined by Minister of Police Bheki Cele and Minister of Home Affairs Siyabonga Cwele.
Sisulu said the government had resolved to “educate South Africans about how to live with each other. We want to educate them about what their responsibilities are, what their rights are, what the positives are.”
The attacks which have been widely reported and discussed on social media as ‘afrophobia’ have seen about 150 Malawians being displaced from townships and sent into hiding at local police stations, churches and community centres.
The minister informed diplomats that the South African government views the attacks as acts of criminality rather than xenophobia. The officials presented a detailed report of documented crimes committed by African nationals resident in the country.
“If we are going to tackle problems, we need to hear the truth, to get the facts so we get a better understanding of the causes,”Ambassador Bene M’poko of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)who represented the African diplomatic community said after the meeting.
“We must also balance that narrative with the fact that Zimbabweans and other foreign nationals are also making some positive contributions to the economy of this country.” Zimbabwean Ambassador to South Africa David Hamadziripi told the gathering. “There are Zimbabweans and other foreigners who are gainfully employed who are making significant contribution in various sectors of the SA economy.” Hamadziripi said.
The government and diplomats resolved to setup a joint task force to deal with attacks on foreigners as well as crimes committed by foreign nationals. It is expected to constantly monitor the situation on the ground with a view to taking pre-emptive action to avoid more attacks.
Inciting statements by politicians, retaliation by locals to crimes committed by foreigners and loss of jobs and economic opportunities of locals to African immigrants have all been identified as some of the reasons behind xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has condemned such attacks by reminding citizens of the contributions of other African countries and nationals to the fall of apartheid thereby entrenching a black majority rule.
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