Tsvangirai visits xenophobia hot spot

“There’s no reason why a brother should hate a brother,” Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Thursday told Zimbabweans living in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg—the scene of much of the past 10 days’ extreme xenophobic violence that has claimed at least 42 lives and displaced 16 000 people.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, flanked by MDC general secretary Tendai Biti, arrived in the township to loud applause and addressed a crowd of Zimbabweans in the courtyard of the Alexandra police station.

Many displaced Zimbabweans remained at the police station on Thursday in tents that have been erected to house them temporarily.

“We in the MDC understand the problems you are facing,” Tsvangirai said, standing on a table. “We are shocked by the plight of men and women who have left their country to [go to] a country in the region not of their own volition but because of circumstances back home.”

He continued: “What I want to say to you is that the cause of this plight is none other than our political circumstances back home. We are Africans, but we are members of the same family.

“What we should be doing is to find a solution so that those who can’t find jobs and food back home do not have to come [to South Africa] and find they are unwelcome here.”

Tsvangirai thanked South Africans, the South African government, the African National Congress and the Nelson Mandela Foundation “for supporting all these nationals who are supposed to be part of our region”, adding: “I’m hoping that together as a region we can find a solution.”

He mentioned that he plans to return to Zimbabwe on Saturday, saying: “I’m hoping all of you can join me to solve the political crisis we have [in Zimbabwe].
I’m also hoping that our South African brothers will appreciate that they need to be more tolerant, more accommodating, while we are solving that problem.”

Tsvangirai had planned to return to Zimbabwe last weekend, bidding to deliver a knockout blow to weakened President Robert Mugabe in a run-off election scheduled for June 27.

However, on Saturday he said he would not return, fearing an assassination attempt. The MDC had received credible information from “highly placed sources” that Tsvangirai’s life was in danger if he returned as planned.

Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF on Tuesday dismissed opposition claims that President Robert Mugabe’s military intelligence was plotting to assassinate opposition leadership.

On Thursday, Tsvangirai said: “I hope that in the long term we can live side by side. A Venda crossing Beitbridge [border post from Zimbabwe into South Africa] is no different from a Venda across the river. Let’s go back home, let’s solve the Zimbabwean problem, and hopefully in the long term we can live happily ever after and shake hands as Africans.”

From Alexandra, Tsvangirai was to travel to Reiger Park, where fierce violence had also been reported in the past week.

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