Harare – Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on Saturday expressed his “shock and disgust” at “horrible” xenophobic attacks in neighbouring South Africa in his first public reaction to the violence that has swept parts of Durban and Johannesburg.

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Addressing crowds gathered in the pouring rain in Harare for official celebrations of Zimbabwe’s 35th anniversary of independence, Mugabe said: “The act of treating other Africans in that horrible way can never be condoned by anyone.”

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“Our own African people on the African continent must be treated with respect.”

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“If there is any issue arising from influx [of foreigners]… surely that can be discussed and measures can be taken to deal with and address the situation,” Mugabe said towards the end of a 30-minute speech at Harare’s national sports stadium.

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Two Zimbabweans are believed to have been killed in the violence. Zimbabwe is preparing to repatriate more than 1 500 of its citizens in the wake of the attacks, which broke out shortly after Mugabe made a state visit to South Africa with his wife Grace earlier this month.

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“We say on our behalf and on behalf of SADC and indeed on behalf of the African Union: That must never happen again. Never happen again in South Africa or any other country,” said the 91-year-old president, who is currently the chair of the AU and Southern African Development Community.

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“We are glad that President [Jacob] Zuma has expressed his abhorrence just as we are doing at what happened,” Mugabe said.

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The attacks have outraged Zimbabweans and many were waiting to hear whether Mugabe would speak out against them in his speech.

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His ruling Zanu-PF party has already condemned the attacks.

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“I have learnt with a sense of shock and disgust, what is happening in Durban and other parts of South Africa, where about five or six Africans were burnt to death. We understand it is in response to the influx of foreigners from neighbouring countries and whether they [xenophobia perpetrators] are followers of King Zwelithini or any other misguided  elements, that must stop. On behalf of Zimbabwe, SADC and AU, that must never happen again in South Africa and any other nation,” said Mugabe.

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Mugabe said his government has taken measures to repatriate Zimbabwean nationals.

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“Our ministers are working with South African authorities and transport is there already to bring our people back home,” he said.

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Meanwhile, Mugabe has shot down an announcement by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa this week that government had suspended civil servants’ bonuses until at least 2017.

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He said civil servants must be applauded for supporting and implementing government policies, adding that it is not government policy to suspend their bonuses.

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“It is not government policy, we were not consulted on that matter. The issue was never discussed in Cabinet, so your bonuses will come to you,” the President said.

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On development, Mugabe said after the SADC and AU elected him to lead the groupings, he now has a chance to push for industrialisation of Africa through value addition and beneficiation.

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“That is a definite programme agreed by both AU and SADC,” he said, adding that it is his wish for Zimbabwe to emerge as a long prosperous nation, while Africa becomes a prosperous continent.

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He said all this is possible if the continent pushes for empowerment of its locals, and investing in value-addition of its mineral resources.

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On Zimbabwe’s mining industry, he said the Russian investment in the Great Dyke is progressing well, adding that government has also secured reputable diamond cutting and polishing companies, in a development expected to push revenue earnings and create employment.

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He also applauded his security forces for ‘remaining resolute in defending our hard won independence and sovereignty,’ adding that they continue to make Zimbabwe proud on the international stage, where they have participated in various peace-keeping missions.