Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
THE South African Government has set up an inter-ministerial committee on migration to tackle the new wave of xenophobic violence in the neighbouring country.
President Jacob Zuma, in a statement, strongly condemned the acts of violence and called on South Africans to exercise restraint, saying perpetrators of violence would be brought to book.
“The situation has become more serious in light of current threats of violence and acts of intimidation and destruction of property directed at non-nationals living in South Africa.
“We strongly condemn the acts of violence and call upon citizens and non-nationals to exercise restraint, unite against crime and work with the authorities to bring perpetrators of crime to book,” he said.
President Zuma on Wednesday last week met his ministers from the justice, crime prevention and security cluster to discuss a strategy to respond to crime more vigorously in the many hotspots around the country.
The SA leader said it was wrong for South Africans to solely blame all criminal activities on foreigners.
“Many citizens of other countries living in South Africa are law abiding and contribute to the economy of the country positively. It is wrong to brandish all non-nationals as drug dealers or human traffickers. Let us isolate those who commit such crimes and work with government to have them arrested, without stereotyping and causing harm to innocent people,” he said.
“The threats and counter-threats on social media must stop. All must exercise restraint, respect the laws of the land and work together to fight crime and build safer communities.”
Meanwhile, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has also condemned xenophobic violence in Pretoria and Johannesburg and called for peaceful coexistence between locals and foreigners.
The party blamed Johannesburg Mayor Mr Herman Mashaba, saying he incited the violence in Gauteng with his comments about foreigners in December last year.
Mr Mashaba came under fire for referring to foreigners as criminals and inciting violence when he told journalists that illegal immigrants got to South Africa criminally and “should be treated as such.”
Mr Mashaba has however, denied he’s to blame, saying he’s deeply concerned about xenophobic attacks.
ANC spokesperson Mr Zizi Kodwa called on law enforcement agents to deal decisively with perpetrators of violence.
“We call for calm. We call for tolerance, particularly to leaders who may make reckless and inflammatory statements. This is not the time.
“We must create coexistence of our brothers and sisters from neighbouring countries. We call on law enforcement authorities to deal with any criminal acts, regardless of nationality,” he said.
The chairman of the Zimbabwean Community in South Africa, Mr Ngqabutho Mabhena, said there was a third force behind the attacks, accusing some opposition parties of trying to destabilise the ANC-led government.
He said his organisation, representing 500 000 Zimbabweans, the majority of whom are not documented, is in the process of engaging ANC and its political allies to intervene in the wake of the renewed spate of attacks.
Violence broke out during last Friday’s anti-immigrants march in Pretoria and parts of Johannesburg.
Police had to use stun grenades, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse the protestors going by the name “Mamelodi Concerned Residents” who accused immigrants of “taking our jobs, fuelling crime and prostitution.”
Dozens of foreign-owned shops and properties have been looted in Pretoria West, Mamelodi and Atteridgeville over the last two weeks.
Earlier this month, locals in Rosettenville, in southern Johannesburg, torched 12 houses believed to be drug dens and brothels.
The latest attacks evoked ugly memories of the deadly xenophobic attacks of 2015 which displaced hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans and other African immigrants living in South Africa, following inflammatory remarks by Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, who had called for the expulsion of foreigners.