South Africa has expressed regret following xenophobic attacks targeting mostly African migrants in the country says Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba.
Some South Africans accuse foreign nationals of taking away their jobs and opportunities.
Gigaba says President Jacob Zuma has constituted an inter-ministerial committee, which includes security and immigration officials, with a task of resolving the violence against foreign nationals after a recent surge in attacks targeting Africans.
Zuma appealed for calm after officials said about 116 alleged masterminds of the violence were arrested.
“No grievance or concern is enough to justify acts of criminality and violence against foreign or even South African nationals. And so we are determined to stamp this violence out and ensure that people can live in peace in South Africa,” said Gigaba.
“One the other hand where there are genuine grievances among South Africans particularly of an economic nature, as well as social services, we will address those… So that we can remove the powder keg, which can be used by criminals opportunistically to instigate violence and to cause violence against foreign nationals,” he added.
Gigaba said Zuma’s call for calm was timely, adding that the government has set in motion plans to prosecute and punish those found guilty of xenophobic attacks.
He says Pretoria has engaged the African diplomatic corps to brief them about the administration’s plans to help the victims as well as end the violence.
“We have visited the displaced people in the shelters. We’ve spoken to them and expressed our regret and assured them of our government’s intention to deal decisively with the situation to ensure their reintegration,” Gigaba said. “We’ve also reassured those who wish for voluntary repatriation that we are going to assist them towards their safe return to their home countries.”
Victims of the violence say they were attacked because they are African migrants. They expressed surprise about the attacks since many African countries helped black South Africans in their struggle against the apartheid white minority rule.
Gigaba agreed, but added that other nationals as well as some South Africans were also attacked.
“All of these incidents undermine our efforts towards greater integration in the African continent as South Africa and it undermines our efforts towards building a peaceful correlation with our African neighbors, and the peace efforts our government has been involved with on the African continent,” he said.
Meanwhile, influential Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini has been accused of stoking xenophobia after he was quoted as saying foreigners should “pack their bags and leave.”
But, Gigaba said the king denied the reports after the inter-ministerial team met the king. The king has since appealed for calm and an end to the violence.