President Jacob Zuma has assured foreigners including Zimbabweans living in South Africa that they are protected by a “friendly” legislative system which accommodates everyone.
President Zuma’s comments follow recent utterances by Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini calling for the deportation of foreigners from South Africa.
Ironically, President Zuma’s eldest son, Edward, last week also came out in full support of King Zwelithini’s controversial statement.
King Zwelithini reportedly made the remarks, which sparked criticism, at a moral regeneration rally in Pongola, northern KwaZulu-Natal, a fortnight ago.
President Zuma’s spokesperson, Mr Mac Maharaj, yesterday told our Bulawayo Bureau that South Africa had a liberal and open system that allowed everyone to stay in the country as long as they had the correct documents.
“Our policy as the South African government is that we have a very clear and well defined liberal system that allows anyone to be in our country legally regardless of where they come from. We believe our country has an open and friendly legislative system to accommodate our neighbours including other countries in Africa and beyond,” said Mr Maharaj.
“Inasmuch as we have our own socio-economic problems just like any other country, we firmly believe that we need to deal with them rather than entirely blaming it on foreigners. We have one of the most liberal systems in the world,” he said.
When asked to comment on King Zwelithini’s remarks calling for the deportation of foreigners, Mr Maharaj said: “I only speak on the official government position. His statements in the newspapers have nothing to do with the Presidency. You better speak to him.”
Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi last week condemned the Zulu king’s comments, saying they were highly inflammatory and against Sadc protocols. King Zwelithini’s remarks also sparked outrage from the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and opposition parties, which described them as “highly irresponsible”.
The king’s remarks were made against the backdrop of rising tensions between foreign nationals and locals in the wake of recent xenophobic attacks in the neighbouring country.
The violence began in Soweto, Gauteng, in January and later spread to KwaZulu-Natal, where it has claimed three lives.
Three weeks ago, a Zimbabwean woman who was wrongly accused of killing a young boy, was lynched by an angry mob in a shanty township near South Africa’s capital, Pretoria.
The woman was burnt alive while another man, also from Zimbabwe, managed to escape after police intervened. The Zimbabwean pair had been accused of bewitching the boy. A probe later revealed that the boy had been electrocuted.
South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), described King Zwelithini’s comments as “highly irresponsible”.
“Particularly given the recent spate of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, he should do the right thing — retract and apologise,” said DA national spokesperson Phumzile van Damme.
The SAHRC said it was looking into the matter.
“His utterances, if proven true, would border on xenophobia,” said SAHRC spokesperson Isaac Mangena. The Zulu monarch has refused to apologise.