President Jacob Zuma on Friday called for restraint ahead of the planned march against foreign nationals which is being organised by a group calling itself the Mamelodi Concerned Residents.
“The situation has become more serious in light of current threats of violence and acts of intimidation and destruction of property directed at non-nationals living in South Africa,” said Zuma in a statement issued by the Presidency.
Violence directed at foreign nationals in Tshwane has seen houses and businesses being looted and set alight by residents who are protesting against the proliferation of brothels and drug dens as well as lack of jobs they say have been taken up by illegal immigrants.
Two weeks ago residents in Rosettenville, Johannesburg, set alight several houses thought to belong to foreign nationals accused of operating brothels and drug dens.
Police say as many as 42 people have been arrested in connection with the disturbances.
On Thursday the President said he will champion the fight against crime in order to promote safer and more stable communities, in light of several complaints from communities about drug trafficking and abuse and other serious crimes which cause fear among many residents in the country.
“The President has strongly condemned the acts of violence and calls upon citizens and non-nationals to exercise restraint, unite against crime and work with the authorities to bring perpetrators of crime to book,” said the Presidency.
“The President visited Nyanga in Cape Town two weeks ago, one of the serious crime hotspots in the country. He will be visiting other communities as well to obtain a first-hand account of problems faced on the ground with respect to crime.”
On Wednesday (22 February) the President met with the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster Ministers to discuss a strategy to respond to crime more vigorously in the many hotspots around the country.
The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Migration has also been directed to look into the threats of violence and ensure that programmes agreed to since the last outbreak of violence, which are being implemented, are communicated to the public.
“The security Ministers briefed me about recent incidents of violence and destruction of property as well as rumours of impending violence directed at non-nationals circulating on social media,” said Zuma.
“There are real concerns by South Africans in many areas about serious crime that is destabilising communities. In Nyanga ambulances cannot even enter the township to fetch sick people to take them to hospital. Delivery vans have to be escorted by police when entering the townships.
“People fear even walking around the townships. I impressed upon the Ministers that action is needed in Nyanga and other areas. Our people cannot continue to live in fear like this,” said the President.
The President said government has also noted the complaints of South Africans about companies that employ illegal immigrants.
He reiterated that the Department of Home Affairs will be cracking down on all employers who continue with this practice, which is dangerous as it pits locals against non-nationals.
President Zuma also appealed to citizens not to blame all criminal activities on non-nationals.
“Many citizens of other countries living in South Africa are law abiding and contribute to the economy of the country positively. It is wrong to brandish all non-nationals as drug dealers or human traffickers.
“Let us isolate those who commit such crimes and work with government to have them arrested, without stereotyping and causing harm to innocent people.
“In particular, government requests communities to assist the police with information relating to complaints that some non-nationals may be involved in selling drugs, human trafficking and other serious crimes. This will enable law enforcement agencies to act against such lawlessness regardless of the place of origin of the perpetrators’’.
Zuma reiterated his assertion that South Africans are not xenophobic and that the problems they are raising with respect to crime will be attended to.
The President has also urged unity among citizens and non-nationals to fight crime.
“The threats and counter-threats on social media must stop. All must exercise restraint, respect the laws of the land and work together to fight crime and build safer communities,” Zuma said.