The death toll in the xenophobic violence that has plagued areas in Gauteng has risen to 12, with 639 arrested so far, confirmed Minister of Police Bheki Cele.
Interviewed on Monday by the SABC‘s On Point, Cele indicated that he believed an upsurge in violence on Monday was a result of confusion surrounding a meeting where hostel dwellers were addressed by former IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, which he said went ahead despite government calling it off.
“The yesterday violence was unfortunate because if things were done properly I don’t think that violence would have given us an upsurge yesterday,” the minister said.
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“The meeting [was] prepared … together with the leadership of hostels, the izinDuna, the premier, myself and almost all government levels.
“For some reasons after speaking to [King Goodwill Zwelithini], who raised some concerns, we called off that meeting, but we were taken aback to find that the meeting was continuing yesterday morning and definitely it was no more a government meeting, it was a political party meeting and it came with an upsurge in violence,” he said.
Asked if he condemned the meeting, Cele said: “I don’t condemn the meeting, but I condemn the violence that comes out of that meeting”.
He added that he, in fact, condemned all forms of violence.
It was reported on Monday that the meeting, which took place on Sunday, did not go well.
Buthelezi’s attempt to appeal to the party faithful appeared to have partly fallen on dead ears, with a portion of the crowd leaving after the nonagenarian leader pleaded for peace and more humane treatment for foreign migrants in South Africa.
He scolded the defiant crowd for their attitude as they sang songs drowning him out. Another section of the crowd remained, but did not seem receptive to the message calling for a more welcoming attitude towards foreign nationals.
Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini reportedly also promised this week to address the recent xenophobic violence that rocked the city of Johannesburg and beyond in Gauteng.
The king said that when he went to Johannesburg, the city would be at a standstill and quiet.
Zwelithini added that he had a programme that would bring peace and unity, which started with the Zulu nation.
The king called for his people to be unified and to be cautious of the so-called divide-and-rule tactics, which had been used by colonisers.
“This is the same thing that is happening today, disguised as xenophobia.”
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Background reporting, Charles Cilliers.)