Attacks 'were criminality disguised as xenophobia'

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Thursday dismissed reports of xenophobic attacks in some parts of the country, saying it was just a “squall of bad omen” becoming louder.

“Xenophobia is not going to happen. I call on people and the media not to be part of peddling this hysteria of a possible outbreak ... There is no such systematic thing as xenophobia in the country,” Mthethwa told media in Pretoria.

He said these were “dangerous rumours” and risked being self-fulfilling.

Police commissioner General Bheki Cele said that a week before the Soccer World Cup, about 11 buses carrying Zimbabwean nationals had entered the country, but the media did not report that.

“No one reported on that but now they are focusing on those leaving,” said Cele.

There had been incidents linked to xenophobic attacks in the Western Cape on Sunday night where a number of foreign-owned spaza shops and container shops were burned and looted.

Some vandalism and attempted looting continued during the day on Monday in Khayelitsha, where police helped Somali shop owners to remove their goods.

Mthethwa, who visited the area on Monday, emphasised that they were not dismissing reports of xenophobic attacks, but that investigations revealed that xenophobia was not the case, but rather “criminality disguised as xenophobia”.

“We don’t take people’s lives for granted.”

Cele said a number of meetings had taken place in communities where incidents were reported and that feedback received from community members was that they had no intention of driving out foreign nationals.

He singled out “criminal elements”, aged 13 to 25, who terrorised people, adding that a dozen of them had been arrested.—Sapa

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