Xenophobia: Ramaphosa calls for calm
Ramaphosa also warned against spreading of unverified information on social media, such as the claims that foreigners were attacking schools.
Foreign nationals sit and watch after their shacks were set alight by alleged looters at Marabastad, near the Pretoria Central Business District (CBD) in Pretoria, South Africa on September 2, 2019, during widespread attacks on foreign nationals and looting of their shops. Picture: Phill Magakoe / AFP
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered a sombre call for calm last night, following several days of violence targeting foreigners across the country, and leading to backlash from throughout the continent.
After having to address the scourge of violence against women and children, Ramaphosa pleaded for tolerance and action against those responsible for the death of at least 10 people, two of whom have been confirmed to be foreign nationals.
“No amount of anger or frustration and grievance can justify such acts of wanton destruction and criminality. There can be no excuse for the attacks on the homes and businesses of foreign nationals, just as there can be no excuse whatsoever for xenophobia or any form of intolerance,” Ramaphosa said.
“Equally, there is no justification for the burning and looting on the homes of South Africans.”
The president reminded South Africans that not only did our neighbours across the continent provide sanctuary and assistance to South africans during apartheid, but that we were also mutually dependent on each other.
He called for improved cooperation to “strengthen political, social and trade ties, if we are to strengthen own economy and that of our neighbours”.
Ramaphosa warned “where people act with criminal intent, irrespective of their nationality, we will not hesitate to uphold the law”.
Since Sunday, 423 people have been arrested in Gauteng for violence and looting of foreign-owned businesses. Twenty three people have also been arrested in KwaZulu-Natal for attacks on trucks, during protests against foreign drivers.
The attacks have led to retaliatory attacks on South African businesses in several countries, the South African embassy in Nigeria being closed due to security concerns.
Ramaphosa also warned against spreading of unverified information on social media, such as the claims that foreigners were attacking schools, which led to chaos at schools in Gauteng this week, as parents rushed to remove their children.
“This misinformation is also being disseminated in neighbouring countries and throughout the world, causing panic and putting lives in danger. Let us not be misled.
“Let us not be provoked by those who want to sow mistrust and fuel conflict. This is a time for calm,” he said. “It is a time for all of us who live in this beautiful country to confront our challenges directly and earnestly, not through violence, but through dialogue.”
Ramaphosa called on religious leaders and communities to join in prayer over the weekend, in order for calm to be restored.