FILE - Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairwoman of the African Union Commission.
FILE - Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairwoman of the African Union Commission.

The African Union said it welcomes efforts by South Africa to stem the tide of xenophobic violence that has rocked the country in recent weeks.  

But, the AU said authorities must do more to protect African and other foreign migrants. 

AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said the challenges faced by South Africa - poverty and unemployment - are challenges confronting most, if not all, countries on the continent. But, she said no circumstances can justify the attacks on foreigners.

AU Deputy Chairperson Erastus Mwencha said the continental body also wants to remind South Africans not to forget the sacrifices many Africans made in the struggle to end apartheid.

“First of all, as (the) African Union, and through the chairperson, we have condemned what has happened in South Africa. We hope that the government can do more particularly to protect the rest of the citizens from Africa and the rest of the world, but also to bring to justice those that perpetrated this heinous crime,” Mwencha said.

Anti-immigrant violence

He said the AU is hoping that those perpetrating the anti-immigrant violence are in the minority in South Africa. And, he urged South Africans not to forget their immediate history when many African nations sacrificed to end apartheid.

“If you look at the liberation of South Africa from apartheid, the rest of the continent stood with the people of South Africa. And, unfortunately, maybe because we don’t stress our history a lot, this is forgotten and what we see is the memory that has elapsed,” Mwencha said.

He commended those African nations whose nationals are experiencing xenophobic attacks in South Africa, but did not retaliate. Mwencha said Africa is interdependent and must now forge integration because that’s the only way the continent emerge stronger.

South Africa Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula announced Tuesday that the government will deploy military personnel to join the police in preventing further violence.

Mwencha said the African Union welcomes the government’s decision to deploy its military. But, he said the government should also arrest and bring to justice those who have committed the crimes to serve as a deterrent,” he said.

He said no amount of economic concerns can justify the violence that has been taken place in South Africa.

“If you look back to recent history, many countries really went to the extreme to even forego development just to fight apartheid. And so, that is part of the history we shouldn’t forget. If we all didn’t stand together, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are in today,” Mwencha said.

Mwencha said, if Africans fight among themselves, they are surrendering to evil forces. Instead, he said, what Africans need to do is not to look at what they have today, but what they can do together to build stronger economies.