Still no xenophobia for Mthethwa

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa continued to insist on Friday that this week’s violence in the Western Cape was “so-called” rather than actual xenophobia.

Speaking after a meeting with Western Cape premier Helen Zille and Cape Town mayor Dan Plato, he also again cautioned the media over its reporting on the issue.

“Some of the reports, you feel it’s by people who wish that those things happen,” he told journalists at Parliament.

The Western Cape was hit by an outbreak of violence this week as residents of townships in Cape Town and some surrounding towns looted and burned shops belonging to foreigners.

Mthethwa has repeatedly claimed the violence is actually criminality disguised as xenophobia.

However, non-government organisations have charged that officials seem to be avoiding use of the word xenophobia in the hope that the violence will subside.

And on Friday, as he was meeting with Zille, the United Democratic Movement said Mthethwa himself appeared to be wrestling with semantics.

“Minister Mthethwa’s contribution to the public debate comes over as brusque, patronising and myopic,” said the party’s deputy president, Ntopile Kganyago.

Mthethwa told Friday’s briefing that the inter-ministerial committee on xenophobia last week decided to meet representatives of provincial and local government, and the media.

“What is important is a call to work together in fighting any possible outbreak of the so-called xenophobia,” he said.

“We have to be a united front against any criminal behaviour, because this, by and large, has manifested itself as criminal activities, opportunistically so.”

He said the media might be fuelling “self-fulfilling prophecies” through its reporting on the issue.

“How do we report in a responsible way without actually fuelling a mob mentality kind of a situation?” he asked.

There had been a “pattern” in reporting, particularly by foreign media.

“We can not look the other way and say because it’s the fourth estate we may not get favour and so on… we have been following those things.”

Zille told the briefing she agreed fully that the challenge of xenophobia and all the tragedies that resulted from it had to be prevented, and that “we must do that together”.

“We agreed [at Friday’s meeting] that xenophobia is real, that it’s a real phenomenon that we have to deal with, that has opportunistic consequences as well,” she said.

“I don’t think that we can dismiss xenophobia as purely the work of criminal elements.”

She said the plan developed by all three tiers of government after the 2008 xenophobic violence was working, and there had been “extraordinary” co-operation from the South African Police Service.

It involved identifying flashpoints, working closely with the police to ensure those points did not turn violent, and sending in teams of mediators.

Currently there were 20 teams on the ground, most of them in the Cape Town metropole.

“I believe the rollout of that plan has been primarily responsible for preventing the threats materialising to any significant extent,” she said.

She had suggested to Mthethwa that the special soccer world cup courts be kept going to deal with xenophobic incidents swiftly and publicly.

Zille said she and the two ministers — State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele also attended — had agreed that the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees should be approached to ensure that the world body addressed the root causes of the problem.

Among these causes was the fact that neighbouring Zimbabwe was a failed state, with a quarter of its population seeking work elsewhere.

“They [the UN] just haven’t applied themselves to how they deal with it,” she said. –Sapa

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Ben Maclennan
Guest Author

ConCourt settles the law on the public protector and interim...

The Constitutional Court said it welcomed robust debate but criticised the populist rhetoric in the battle between Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Minister Pravin Gordhan

Small towns not ready for level 3

Officials in Beaufort West, which is on a route that links the Cape with the rest of the country, are worried relaxed lockdown regulations mean residents are now at risk of contracting Covid-19

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday