The ANC’s secretary general Ace Magashule has denied the existence of xenophobia in South Africa, instead saying it is just criminality that has taken over.
Magashule addressed members of SA Students Congress (Sasco) at the Tshwane University of Technology on Wednesday, ahead of the university’s student representative council elections on Thursday.
“What I know, which is factual, is that our presidents, the presidents of Africa are talking, and they have analysed this correctly. They know what is happening. It is not acts of xenophobia, it’s acts of criminality,” said Magashule to journalists on the sidelines of the Sasco’s election rally.
He further described some of the acts as “tribal battles”.
South Africa has experienced a wave of protests, in which communities have looted both foreign and South African-owned shops while calling for an end to the presence of drug syndicates.
Gauteng’s been the hardest-hit province with sporadic violence occurring across all three of its big metros.
“Criminals are actually seizing the opportunity to do what they are not meant to do, that’s why we say police must act very harshly against criminals,” continued Magashule.
Earlier, head of strategic communications and member of the World Economic Forum executive committee, Olivier Cann confirmed that Malawi and Rwanda would not be attending the forum.
Magashule said he had spoken to Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame in the morning and knew he couldn’t make it to South Africa for the Forum due to his commitments as African Union chair.
He also said delegations from both Rwanda and Malawi were participating in the WEF.
Magashule spoke out against the violence during his speech to students, claiming this was an attempt to further divide the African continent, as had been done during the colonial era.
“This is not xenophobia, even South Africans are getting killed. Thugs are taking chances,” said Magashule.
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has also come out saying there is no truth to the suggestions that several heads of state and government snubbed the Forum because of the violence.
The WEF summit is currently taking place in Cape Town.
“The heads of state and government, who have confirmed attendance, are all taking part in the WEF Africa event. The event is proceeding smoothly and attendance is satisfactory,” department spokesperson Lunga Ngqengele said in a statement.
Rumours started doing the rounds that several heads of state would not attend in protest to the current looting and xenophobia-related violence in Gauteng.
Shops owned by foreign nationals have been looted in recent days, while truck drivers from neighbouring countries have also been targeted.
Meanwhile, MTN, MultiChoice and Shoprite have closed shops as South African companies in Nigeria and Zambia are being targeted by protesters following the xenophobic attacks.
At the same time, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s government summoned South Africa’s envoy on Tuesday and said it would dispatch a delegation to Pretoria to express “deep concern” over attacks on Nigerians in parts of the capital.
Ngqengele said Rwanda had already indicated President Kagame would not be in attendance.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, according to Ngqengele, did not confirm their attendance while no correspondence was received from Malawi’s Peter Mutharika.
“There is therefore no truth to the reports that the three heads of state have cancelled their visits due to the attacks on African migrants.
“South Africa recognises that its future is inextricably linked to that of the rest of the African continent. That is why South Africa plays a leading role in regional and continental efforts aimed at bringing about political stability, peace and security as well as economic development,” said Ngqengele.
He added South African law enforcement agencies were taking steps against perpetrators of violence.