- Zuma addressed parliament in Cape Town as thousands marched in Durban
- He said South Africa owed the rest of Africa a debt of gratitude and not violence against their citizens
- Opposition parliamentarians castigated him and his party
- African Union Commission Chairperson and Zuma’s former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has called for an immediate halt to the violence
- The government has set up joint operations centres as more foreigners are being displaced
- Some Nigerians embarked on a protest march also
- The violence is already attracting international repercussions
President Zuma appealed for calm as he addressed parliament in Cape Town, the nation’s legislative capital. It was his second appeal in two days, following a televised address on Wednesday in which he sent the same message.
Zuma’s intervention in Parliament comes as xenophobic violence spreads from troubled communities in KwaZulu-Natal to residential areas in Gauteng.
“No amount of frustration or anger can ever justify the attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops,” Zuma told the National Assembly.
“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.
“Our country stands firmly against all intolerance such as racism, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism. We appeal for calm, an end to the violence and restraint, “he pleaded.
The president had hardly caught his breath from his long speech when verbal salvos were fired at him, the ruling party ANC, and his family by opposition parliamentarians.
The youthful parliamentary leader of the foremost opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), Mmusi Maimane threw the first missile in his reaction to Zuma’s speech.
34-year-old Maimane, who is widely perceived to be in line to succeed Helen Zille as the national leader of the DA, following Zille’s impending retirement, said the attacks showed that the country was losing sight of its values.
“My heart goes out to those foreign nationals. Growing up in Soweto, I have seen the capability of humans to inflict violence on one another,” Maimane said during the subsequent debate on the attacks.
“I have seen people being beaten and necklaced, and their property destroyed. … Our humanity is slipping away from us, and we cannot allow that. We cannot stand by as fellow human beings are tortured and murdered.”
Without naming them, Maimane reminded the chamber of comments by Cabinet ministers in recent days focusing on the frustration of South Africans as they competed with foreigners for scarce resources.
He said the State’s response should instead be to acknowledge its own failure to create jobs and reduce poverty:
“Instead of acknowledging these socio-economic root causes of the tension in our communities, there are people in powerful positions attempting to shift the blame and even condone criminality and xenophobia.”
Firebrand opposition politician and leader of the Economic Freedom Front (EFF), Julius Malema, went personal as he berated President Zuma and his government.
Malema said the government itself was setting an example of resorting to violence when confronted with problems.
He told the National Assembly this was evidenced by the government’s response to striking workers and communities staging service delivery protests.
“When (Andries) Tatane protested, you killed him,” he said of the 33-year-old protester killed in Ficksburg in 2011 and cited the shooting of miners at Marikana as another example.
“You applied violence against the EFF,” he added.
Malema claimed that he noticed that when President Jacob Zuma condemned the wave of xenophobia in an address to the chamber, his heart did not appear to be in it.
“Your body language did not suggest a leader,” Malema said, before adding that the president had failed to stop his son Edward Zuma from expressing anti-foreigner sentiment.
“You cannot even whip your own son into line,” he charged; an obvious reference to President Jacob Zuma’s son Edward, who was reported to be in support of the inciting statement by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini that foreigners should pack their bags and leave South Africa.
Agang Party MP, Andries Tlouamma, said xenophobic attacks showed, like the campaign of defacing contested statues, that the government had lost the ability to maintain order.
It all became glaring how little the scourge of xenophobia is understood, when a certain MP proffered the evacuation of all foreign nationals, the way Malawi is doing, as the solution to the problem.
In his contribution to the debate, Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, ACDP, repented of the atrocities meted to foreign nationals by South African citizens, on behalf of the nation.
Meshoe, who came the closest to condemning the unguarded and inciting statements by highly placed persons in the society, called on the clergy to be more proactive in fostering peaceful co-existence among all races in South Africa.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, stood up for the president in the debates.
“Honourable Malema is probably the best student of the school of nuisance (nonsense),” he retorted.
Gigaba, one of the predecessors of Malema as former President of the ANC Youth League, said Malema and those like him in parliament were setting a bad example for the youths who might be led to believe that unruly behavior and disrespect for elders were acceptable norms in society.
“Today is not a day for cheap political points scoring,” the Home Affairs Minister said, as he went on to explain the significance of the contributions of foreign nationals to the South African economy, stressing that not all foreigners are illegal immigrants and criminals.
Protesting students of the University of Cape Town waited outside the National Assembly, denouncing the attacks and what they called inadequate attempts by the government to check the mayhem.
A female student from Mozambique told ANN7 Television that she was in great pain over the treatment being meted to foreigners, especially those who stood by black South Africans in their hour of need.
“I came here to study and look for a way to improve myself. I didn’t come here to take their jobs….I remember as a child, South Africans were living with us in Mozambique and we took care of them. We never saw them as strangers so I feel great pain when I see them treating us like this,” she lamented.
A group of Nigerians also embarked on a protest march to the South African High Commission in Lagos. A member of the group condemned the attacks, saying this is no way for South Africans to repay those who sacrificed a lot for them to gain their freedom from apartheid.
In Durban, the epicenter of the violence, thousands of people marched in the city centre against xenophobic violence.
A peace bus carrying Johannesburg residents run by social media expert Khaya Dlanga and Shaka Sisulu left Johannesburg on Wednesday night to join the march led by KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu and Ethekwini mayor James Nxumalo.
The situation in Durban was reportedly calm last night but police remained on standby. Earlier, they had to use water cannons to disperse protesting groups of locals to prevent them from disrupting the peace march.
Many believe the police are not doing enough to check the brutalization of foreigners and the plundering of their businesses.
However, Joint Operational Centres (JOCs) have been opened across South Africa to curb the sporadic attacks on foreigners and looting of foreign owned shops.
National Police Commissioner, General Riah Piyegha said in a statement released by the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) that the JOCs would be run on a 24-hour basis especially in and around the Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg and Durban central business districts (CBD) where xenophobic attacks have been at their worst.
The violence spread to Germiston and Benoni, two suburbs near Johannesburg in the Ekurhuleni Municipality. Hundreds of foreigners were displaced and forced to camp out in the biting cold in front of the Primrose police station.
Like other foreigners out in the open, they depended on kind-hearted individuals and groups for survival hand outs.
It is not clear whether President Zuma’s appeal fell on deaf ears as there were radio reports this (Friday) morning of foreigners being threatened in Jeppestown, not far from Johannesburg.
Nkosazana Zuma speaks out
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, President Jacob Zuma’s former wife, has called for an immediate halt to the attacks‚ saying: “Whatever the challenges we may be facing‚ no circumstances justify attacks on people‚ whether foreigners or locals. It is unacceptable”.
The AU Commission chairperson decried the incidents as particularly unfortunate‚ as celebrations of Africa month approaches. “On 25 May, we remember the founding of the Organisation of African Unity‚ which played such a critical role in mobilising international solidarity for the end of Apartheid‚” she added.
Dlamini-Zuma appealed for dialogue in and amongst communities‚ to address the challenges and find peaceful solutions.
South Africa’s business fraternity has joined the growing number of people and organisations condemning attacks on foreign nationals from other parts of Africa.
Business Unity SA (BUSA) warned on Thursday of dire consequences for South Africa if the violence continued.
“The continued violence against foreign nationals is sending a negative message to the international business community and could potentially affect South African businesses that are operating in the region and the continent,” BUSA said.
Another organisation, Business Leadership SA (BLSA) said it was concerned about the increasing sense of intolerance, violence and lawlessness in SA, which it saw as a national emergency.
“The state must show that it has the will and fortitude to ensure law and order and to defend the Constitutional values the president of the republic is entrusted and obligated with,” BLSA said in a statement on Thursday.
Repercussions of the violence spilled across borders on Thursday‚ when work was halted at a Sasol project in Mozambique as employees fearing retaliatory attacks downed tools.
Sasol spokesman Alex Anderson said contractors at the company’s natural gas central processing facility in Temane‚ Inhambane‚ halted work because they feared reprisal for the xenophobic violence unfolding in SA.
“We are taking necessary precautions to ensure the safety of all personnel and will continue to facilitate engagement with all parties involved and the relevant authorities to work towards an amicable solution‚” Anderson said.
Sasol is South Africa’s international integrated energy and chemicals company founded in 1950 and operating throughout the SADC region.
South African mine workers in Mozambique have also been taken to a safe location for fear of reprisal attacks.
South Africa is reported to have been served a 48-hour ultimatum to stop the attacks on foreigners or face the closure of South African businesses in Nigeria.
eNCA quotes an official of the newly elected All Progressives Congress (APC), Tolu Adesanya, as saying that a memorandum had been handed to the South African High Commission in Lagos.
“We actually handed a letter to the South African embassy yesterday, making them aware that we are not happy with what is going on in South Africa. Should there be any more attacks, we are going to shut down South African businesses in Nigeria. That is MTN, Multi Choice, Shoprite etc,” Adesanya was reported to have confirmed.
Meanwhile, Malawians have called for a boycott of South African businesses and products if the violence continues. Malawi commenced the evacuation of her citizens from the affected areas on Thursday.
The Malawian government announced today (Friday) that it has set up two centres in Lilongwe and Blantyre to receive those displaced by xenophobic violence in South Africa.
Beyond Africa, scheduled performances by SA artistes, Kelly Khumalo and Brickz, have been put on hold in the United Kingdom owing to concerns over the eruption of xenophobia in South Africa. Kelly Khumalo was billed to perform in Manchester and Coventry but reports say Africans in those cities have threatened to disrupt the show if held.
The cancellation of the shows have serious financial implications for the artistes and could set the trend for the isolation of South Africans.
International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane will be meeting with African diplomats in Pretoria later today to brief them on measures being taken by the government to stop the violence.
NP/ANN7Tv/Times Live/Monitored reports