At the Africa Investment Forum currently taking place at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, President Cyril Ramaphosa was confronted on the issue of xenophobia.
“Inherently, South Africans are not xenophobic,” he said, in response to a question.
“The government of South Africa is irrevocable committed against xenophobia. We’ve got policies aimed at diluting it and taking action against it.”
The president brought up the looting of foreign-owned shops across Gauteng in September, and the eruption of violence linked to xenophobia which led to the deaths of 12 people, ten of whom were South African.
“Attacks on people of other countries are seen as a criminal act in the recent past, of course, the unfortunate thing is that a number of people died, and many of them were South Africans who got caught up in the whole fracas that took place in a number of areas.
“When things like this happen and the criminal element kicks in, people start seeing opportunities to act in a very incorrect way,” he said.
The president then brought up the role of fake news in spreading misinformation around what was taking place at the time.
“The problem that often happens with all this is that fake news becomes the order of the day.
“In our situation, much of what happened was fueled by fake news, and some of it happened in such a very ugly and gross way.
“There were pictures sent around. People were seen jumping out of buildings that are burning, and they said this is what is happening in South Africa, and it wasn’t.
“It was people who were jumping out of a building that was accidentally on fire in another country.
“They transposed it and said this is what is happening in South Africa, and this fueled the reaction of people in other countries, Nigeria for instance.
“At the time I was in close contact with [Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari] and the security forces in Nigeria took a firm stance to help and defend South Africans who are there who have business.
“Similarly we took action here too, more than 200 people were arrested,” he added.
The Africa Investment Forum forum will take place from Monday to Wednesday at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg.
(Compiled the Daniel Friedman)