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Ramaphosa apology for xenophobia welcome

by Editorial - Chronicle
17 Sep 2019 at 07:29hrs | Views
WE welcome the public apology issued by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to the African continent for the recent wave of xenophobic attacks on foreigners of African descent in his country. The apology will go a long way in placating the victims of the attacks, who include Zimbabweans, and assist in reducing tensions between South Africans and foreigners.

In his eulogy during the State Funeral of the late former President, Robert Mugabe, in Harare on Saturday, President Ramaphosa said the recent flare-up of violence goes against the spirit of oneness that was championed by pan-African stalwarts such as Mugabe and former South African leaders, Cdes Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo.

Violence against foreign migrants has led to 12 deaths - including two Zimbabweans - and looting of foreign-owned businesses.

"In the past two weeks, we as South Africans have been going through a challenging period," said President Ramaphosa to the uneasy crowd at the National Sports Stadium.

"We have had acts of violence erupting in some parts of the country, some of which was directed at nationals from other African countries.

"This has led to the deaths and injuries of a number of people, some of whom were nationals from other countries and the majority were South Africans.

"I stand before you as a fellow African to express my regret, and to apologise for what has happened in our country.

"What has happened in South Africa goes against the principles of the unity of the African people that President Mugabe and President Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and the great leaders of our continent stood for," he said in a gesture that was cheered and applauded by the attendees.

His government, he added, was working "very hard" to encourage the "people in South Africa to embrace people from all African countries".

President Ramaphosa thanked his fellow African leaders for the support offered to his government in the wake of the violence. "I would like to state it here and now that South Africans are not xenophobic, South Africans are not against nationals from other countries.  

"We welcome people from other countries and we are going to work very hard that we encourage and promote social cohesion of the people of South Africa working and living side by side with people from other parts of our continent.   "This we shall do because we want to embrace the spirit of unity that President Mugabe worked for throughout his life."

Indeed xenophobia is abhorrent and goes against the spirit of African unity and Ubuntu. The gesture by President Ramaphosa is important in that it demonstrates the South African Government's stance against xenophobia and the various steps it is taking to eliminate the scourge.  

Yesterday reports from South Africa indicated that President Ramaphosa had dispatched special envoys to deliver messages of solidarity to several heads of State and Governments across Africa in the wake of the recent violence targeted at foreigners.

"The special envoys will deliver a message from President Ramaphosa regarding the incidents of violence that recently erupted in some parts South Africa, which have manifested in attacks on foreign nationals and destruction of property," spokesperson Khusela Diko said in a statement.  

The team, which includes Jeff Radebe, Ambassador Kingsley Mamabolo, and Dr Khulu Mbatha are expected to visit Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.  

According to the SA Presidency, the special envoys are tasked with "reassuring fellow African countries that South Africa is committed to the ideals of pan-African unity and solidarity". In addition, the action is also meant to reaffirm South Africa's commitment to the rule of law.  

"The special envoys will brief governments in the identified African countries about the steps that the South African government is taking to bring a stop to the attacks and to hold the perpetrators to account," Diko said.  

We commend the South African Government for the important steps it is taking to tackle xenophobia and hope that their efforts will bear fruit.

The xenophobic violence has strained relations with the rest of Africa with reprisal attacks aimed at South African businesses being reported in Nigeria and Zambia.  

There was palpable hostility towards President Ramaphosa before he addressed the crowd at the NSS on Saturday but after his apology and impassioned plea for African unity, the gathering warmed up to him.

That spirit of oneness should be encouraged and inculcated in the psyche of South Africans so that the violence does not flare up again.

We are aware that the perpetrators of xenophobic violence constitute a small component of the South African population but their actions have dented the image of the entire country.  

The Government of South Africa therefore has a lot of work to do to educate its citizens that they need to live harmoniously with foreigners and not regard them as enemies. President Ramaphosa's apology was an important first step towards African unity and solidarity.

Source - chronicle