Zuma hits back at xenophobia criticism


President Jacob Zuma has said that African countries’ criticism of the South African government following the recent spate of xenophobic violence was uncalled for, and that the country’s neighbours should take some of the blame due to the number of foreigners still present.

Speaking during a Freedom Day celebration at the Union Buildings in Pretoria yesterday, Zuma said that while government condemns the attacks in the strongest possible sense, there are no reasons why foreigners should not be in their country of birth.

“Why are their citizens not in their countries? It is not useful to criticise South Africa as if we mushroom these foreign nationals and then ill-treat them. Some said if you raise your voice in country X you disappear,” Zuma said.

“Everybody criticises South Africa as if we have manufactured the problem. Even if people who are xenophobic are a minority, but what prompts these refugees to be in South Africa? It’s a matter we cannot shy away from discussing.”

His comments comes after Nigeria announced last week that it was recalling its top diplomats to South Africa, following the loss of seven lives since the outbreak of the violance at the beginning of this month.

Zuma stated that government had taken note of locals complaining that foreigners were being employed at lower wages, adding that not all were in the country illegally as claimed.

“They are also complaints that foreign nationals benefit from free government services and that they run businesses illegally. There is also an accusation that undocumented foreign nationals commit crime in the country.

“It is important to emphasise that not all foreign nationals are in the country illegally. It is also not true that all foreign nationals are involved in criminal activities. There are some who are involved, but not all of them”.

He also added that the violence had caused anger amongst South Africans and that it had been inherited from Apartheid. 

“That is the example of the apartheid nature that is left with us. [It’s] legacy has made us all sick. We need a psychological cure to drop the anger”, Zuma said, adding that a formal report will soon be handed over to the Southern Africa Development Community, African Union and the United Nations.