Harare – President Jacob Zuma briefed southern African heads of state gathered for a summit in Harare on Wednesday about measures his government was taking to stop a recurrence of the recent xenophobic attacks in Durban and Johannesburg, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said.

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President Jacob Zuma. (GCIS)

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Speaking at the close of the summit, Mugabe acknowledged that the meeting – held to plan industrial growth in the SADC region – “was not called to discuss xenophobia”.

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“[Zuma] just gave us an explanation of what happened and then a further explanation on the measures that his government is taking,” Mugabe, who is the current chair of SADC, said.

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They include measures to teach South Africans “to treat foreign people as [if they are] part of South Africa” and to get locals to fight against people who might want to carry out xenophobic attacks, the 91-year-old Zimbabwean leader said.

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The attacks left at least seven people, including four foreign nationals, dead. Thousands have been displaced.

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Zimbabwe alone has had to repatriate around 900 of its citizens, some of whom have returned with graphic accounts of the violence they saw or experienced.

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In sometimes rambling off-the-cuff comments, a tired-looking Mugabe complained that many in the region viewed Zimbabwe’s southern neighbour as “heaven on earth”.

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He appeared to blame border jumpers “for mak[ing] the situation of the Africans [in South Africa] worse”.

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“Go there and you’ll see that the Africans in the country are still very raw. It’s the whites who are living better lives, more advanced lives. In Soweto the lives of people are very elementary,” Mugabe said.

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“Our people should not have the instinct of rushing into South Africa,” Mugabe said.

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“I’m suggesting that we the neighbours must do what we can to prevent more people going south… try to get those who are in South Africa back home,” he added.

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An official communiqué read out at the end of the summit said: “President Jacob Zuma briefed the summit on the recent attacks on foreign citizens that occurred in parts of Durban and while condemning the attacks, the summit commended the measures that South Africa put in place,” to deal with the violence.