Mbeki, Zuma condemn attacks

President Thabo Mbeki on Sunday called a wave of deadly attacks on migrants an “absolute disgrace” and said his government would take all measures to bring those responsible to justice.

“We must acknowledge the events of the past two weeks as an absolute disgrace,” Mbeki said in a televised address, his first since the xenophobic outbreak began on May 11 in Johannesburg. At least 50 people have died in attacks across the nation.

‘Our struggle would have been in vain’

All people in South Africa should be tolerant of one another, African National Congress president Jacob Zuma said in Bakerton on the East Rand near Johannesburg on Sunday.

“Fighting won’t solve your problems but will instead exacerbate them and they will therefore remain unsolved,” he said.

“Peace should prevail and we must engage each other on whatever issues there might be,” said Zuma.

He came to address thousands of people in Bakerton about concerns regarding service delivery and the recent attacks in the area.

Zuma, accompanied by provincial ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile and the Ekurhuleni mayor Duma Nkosi, was welcomed by more than 8 000 people.

The visit was part of the ANC’s bid to quell xenophobic attacks in Gauteng.

People in the province’s townships, especially on the East Rand, attacked foreigners, vandalised and looted their properties since May 12. They claimed that foreigners, among others, provided cheap labour and contributed to the levels of crime.

Thousands of foreigners were left destitute and have sought refuge at police stations, churches and local halls.

The large crowd applauded when some members of the community said that foreigners were not welcome in Bakerton.

Zuma appealed for calm and said the environment at Bakerton had to be conducive to solving issues.

He said it was important to establish the correct reason for the problem, beyond an idea that criminal elements were behind the fighting.

“It is difficult to explain why it [the violence] has taken this angle,” Zuma said.

“There could be truth to the claim, but it is important to identify the right reasons if the problem is to be solved.”

He suggested that “other elements could have caused this, some of this [may be] slightly political”.

Four men who spoke from the floor identified the preference given to foreigners in the nearby mines.

They also claimed that they were subjected to torture by the South African National Defence Force.

“People have died, but it is important to sit down and talk. That you fought should not mean that you cannot speak.”

“You cannot build South Africa without the help of your neighbours. Learn to lend a helping hand to them. Without these people our struggle would have been in vain,” Zuma said.

Zuma recalled being detained with a man named Mpofu from Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, in Pretoria in 1963. He said Michael Ngubeni, a Mozambican national, served 12 years as a political prisoner on Robben Island.

“This doesn’t show our humanity at all. Why do we behave as if we have never lived with foreigners before?”

The residents told Zuma that their councillors were corrupt and that there was a lack of service delivery.

“We still use the bucket system,” one resident complained.

Another resident said that a lot of the leaders had jumped on to the the gravy train.

“And we are supposed to be content with the bones they throw at us while they eat steak,” said the resident.

“If you don’t fix these problems we’ll vote you out, ” said the resident. Zuma also promised to visit the area again to listen to their grievances. - Sapa, Reuters

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