Xenophobic attacks ‘embarrass, humiliate’ Bheki Cele

2015-04-22 10:51

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The attacks on foreign nationals over the last few weeks are embarrassing and inhumane, says former national police commissioner Bheki Cele.

“We can’t behave like animals. There is no justification whatsoever for the way we are behaving,” the current deputy agriculture minister told News24.

“As a South African, I went to exile myself. I stayed in several countries, African countries mostly, during my exile days. I am embarrassed, I feel humiliated myself. I feel dehumanised even together with the people we are trying to dehumanise. It cannot be accepted,” Cele said.

Cele said if he was still police commissioner he would have tried his best to intervene before things got out of hand, as he did in KwaZulu-Natal in 2008.

His comments followed a spate of attacks on foreign nationals in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. There was no justification for the attacks, he said.

“It’s a question of are they taking the jobs? Even if there is genuineness (sic) in the things we complain about, which I guess somewhere there are complaints that might be genuine ... we can’t respond the way we are doing.”

It has been thought that King Goodwill Zwelithini and President Jacob Zuma’s son Edward may have played a role in starting the attacks on foreign nationals with recent public utterances they made.

Following the attacks in Durban, Zwelithini held an anti-xenophobia imbizo with traditional leaders in Durban on Monday. Asked about whether Zwelithini’s address would have a positive impact, Cele said he could not say.

Cele, who is a Zulu, said the king commanded much loyalty and respect and his intervention needed to be welcomed, albeit it being a little late.

“Let’s welcome and be thankful that the king acted. It could have been earlier, I agree, but let’s be thankful that he did act. We don’t have the results of the impact, but the fact that he spoke is taking us in the right direction.”

The presidency said seven people had been killed in the last week – three South Africans and four foreign nationals. This included the murder of Mozambican national Emmanuel Sithole in Alexandra, Johannesburg, on Saturday. Pictures of Sithole being attacked were published on the front page of the Sunday Times.

Cele did not believe the pictures should have been published.

“That picture could have been taken and given to police without displaying it. What’s wrong with that? Take the same pictures, send them to police and please spare [us]. Especially things over which you have no control over who sees it.”

Children had access to newspapers and Cele did not believe it was right for them to see such brutality.

“We are over graphic [images] in the name of freedom of press,” he said.

Meanwhile, the police and army raided the Jeppestown hostel last night searching for weapons.

“The whole national team is here. The national commissioner as well,” Gauteng police spokesperson Lieutenant Kay Makhubela said.

Images from the hostel broadcast by eNCA showed dozens of men lined up in the passages wearing nothing but boxer shorts, their arms raised, palms pressed to the walls, as soldiers searched their beds and lockers.

The raid followed an undertaking by Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula earlier yesterday that the army would be sent into areas where xenophobic violence had flared up.

According to an eNCA reporter a machete, a small axe and several knives were found.

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