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2 minute read
24 Apr 2015
2:31 pm

Zuma responds to Couto’s open letter on xenophobia


Grievance of South Africans must be balanced with the plight of refugees, President Jacob Zuma said on Friday as he responded to an open letter by Mozambican author and poet Mia Couto.

FILE PICTURE: President Jacob Zuma. (Photo: DoC)

“We appreciate the contribution of foreign nationals in South Africa. They contribute to our economic development by investing in the economy, bringing critical skills and through adding to the diversity that we pride ourselves in,” Zuma wrote.

“But there are also some complaints or problems that citizens have raised which need to be addressed. These include the increasing number of illegal and undocumented immigrants in the country, the displacement of many local small traders by foreign nationals and that some of the migrant traders operate illegally.”

In his open letter to Zuma, published this week, Couto called for “tough and immediate measures” to stop the attacks on foreigners in South Africa, and reminded Zuma of his days as a political refugee in Mozambique.

“Often I imagined the fears that you must have felt, as a person persecuted by the apartheid regime. I imagined the nightmares you must have experienced at night when you thought of the ambushes plotted against you and against your comrades in the Struggle,” Couto said.

“But I don’t remember ever seeing you with a bodyguard. In fact, it was we Mozambicans who acted as your bodyguards. For years we gave you more than a refuge. We offered you a house and we gave you security at the cost of our security. You cannot possibly have forgotten this generosity.”

In his response, Zuma aknowleges the contribution made by Mozambicans to the liberation struggle.

“I cannot forget the friendship that Mozambique accorded my comrades and to me personally. In fact Mozambique became my second home and it remains my home,” Zuma said.

“You are in pain as your letter indicates, because of the deaths of Mozambicans and the general attacks on foreign nationals in parts of our country.”

Zuma’s letter came after weeks of attacks on foreign nationals which has left at least seven people dead.

The army was deployed to Alexandra in Johannesburg this week to help curb the attacks.