“Some (immigrants) said if you raise your voice in country X you disappear.”
OTHER African nations were responsible for the influx of foreign nationals to South Africa and their criticism of the government over the recent wave of deadly xenophobic unrest was misplaced, President Jacob Zuma said on Monday.
“Our brother countries contribute to this. Why are their citizens not in their countries?
“It is not useful to criticise South Africa as if we mushroom these foreign nationals and then ill-treat them. Some (immigrants) said if you raise your voice in country X you disappear,” Zuma told a Freedom Day rally at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
“Everybody criticises South Africa as if we have manufactured the problem. Even if people who are xenophobic are a minority, but what prompts these refugees to be in South Africa? It’s a matter we cannot shy away from discussing.”
His remarks follow Nigeria’s decision to recall its top diplomats from South Africa.
Zuma reiterated his condemnation of the attacks that has claimed at least seven lives and said the hardship many South Africans endure was no excuse for turning on fellow Africans.
He added government had noted locals’ complaints about their living conditions, including unhappiness with the rising number of immigrants in South Africa.
“We have noted the complaints raised by South Africans and these will be attended to. These complaints include that the number of illegal and undocumented migrants is increasing.”
He said locals complained that immigrants were taking their jobs as some employers now prefer foreigners whom they pay lower wages.
“There are also complaints that foreign nationals benefit from free government services and that they run businesses illegally. There is also an accusation that undocumented foreign nationals commit crime in the country,” said Zuma to applause from his audience.
“None of these justify attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops. We condemn the violence strongly. It is important to emphasise that not all foreign nationals are in the country illegally.”
Zuma noted that reports that Emmanuel Sithole, the Mozambican national who was brutally beaten and stabbed to death in Alexandra, had entered the country illegally.
However, he said many immigrants legally entered South Africa and were significantly contributing to the vast economy.
“It is also not true that all foreign nationals are involved in criminal activities. There are some who are involved, but not all of them.”
He said an inter-ministerial committee was examining all the complaints raised during the xenophobic attacks and also to ensure that immigrants observe their host nation’s laws.
“Government has already announced measures to improve security at the border posts including deploying the army in seven provinces recently to patrol border posts.
“We cannot leave our borders open and hope that either angels and ancestors are guarding our borders. They will never.”
He said soldiers would be deployed as immigration officers to improve the home affairs department’s capacity to man the ports of entry.-newzimbabwe