HARARE - South Africa drew praise Wednesday at a meeting of Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders over its handling of recent xenophobic violence in the country.
At the conclusion of the one-day talks, SADC leaders issued a communiqué saying the region commended the measures that South Africa's government has put in place to ensure that recent attacks on immigrants do not recur.
Speaking at the talks, Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, urged immigrants being attacked in South Africa to return to their homes. His remarks came as SADC leaders were looking at how the region could industrialize to create more jobs.
Mugabe - who is chairing SADC and the African Union - told reporters that there was no reason for Africans to move to South Africa, the continent’s second biggest economy.
"Our people should not have the instincts of rushing into South Africa. They think South Africa is our heaven in southern Africa. Yes, it is better developed. But go there and you will see that the Africans are still low. It is the whites that are living better lives," said Mugabe.
Zimbabweans are said to form the largest group of immigrants in South Africa affected by the xenophobic attacks. They have been estimated at three million.
Before leaving for the meeting in Harare, South African President Jacob Zuma said he wanted the issue discussed - even though it was not on the agenda. Malawi's President Peter Mutharika also indicated he wanted the SADC to address the issue of xenophobia.
The outgoing government of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has recalled the acting Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa, to protest how Pretoria handled the attacks that have claimed seven lives.
The African Union has said it welcomes efforts by South Africa to curb the violence, but stressed that more must be done to protect African and other foreign migrants.