President Zuma responds to Couto's open letter

By Drum Digital
24 April 2015

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma on Friday responded to an open letter addressed to him by Mozambican writer Mia Couto, assuring him that the country was dealing with the spate of attacks on foreign nationals.

Couto penned an open letter to Zuma earlier this week - published on the Daily Maverick website - where he told the president that measures being taken to curb the attacks was inadequate and had come too late. The president and Couto had met in Mozambique in the 1980s, when Zuma was in exile.

In his letter of reply, Zuma said he had not forgotten the kindness the people of Mozambique had shown South African exiles during the apartheid regime.

"Mozambicans and South Africans, and also Frelimo and the ANC, enjoy deep bonds that go far back into our history. These are bonds created by our living together, our working together, and of our fighting together against colonialism and apartheid.

"South Africa has not changed and has not forgotten such comradeship and solidarity. But like most countries that have emerged from conflict, we have deep-seated challenges," said Zuma.

He said the country appreciated the contribution foreign nationals made to economic development, bringing in critical skills and adding to the diversity of the country. However, there were some complaints or problems raised by citizens which needed to be addressed.

"These include the increasing number of illegal and undocumented immigrants in the country, the displacement of many local small traders by foreign nationals and that some of the migrant traders operate illegally.

"There are also accusations that foreign nationals commit crimes such as drug peddling and human trafficking, that they take the jobs of locals as employers prefer them as they are prepared to take lower wages and also complaints about free government housing that is secured by foreign nationals."

Zuma said government had emphasised that none of the grievances justified any form of violence or attacks on foreign nationals and that it would not tolerate it. He also pointed out that government was not saying all migrants were in the country illegally or involved in crime.

"The grievances of the South African population have to be balanced with the plight of many refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants from the continent and beyond. "We, therefore, have a lot of work to do to find long-term solutions. We are already looking beyond the incidents of the past weeks," Zuma said.

He outlined some of the measures already put in place like the 14 member inter-ministerial task team looking into the broader management of migration.

"Drawing support from all sectors of society, they will help us address the underlying socio-economic causes of the tensions between citizens and brothers and sisters from the continent and from countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh to prevent another flare up of violence.

"We have already had consultations with all sectors in our country from business, labour, sports, religious leaders, youth, women, children's sectors and many others."

Zuma was meeting with organisations representing foreign nationals resident in the country at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Pretoria on Friday.

In his letter, Zuma said in the short-term government was importing the implementation of existing migration policy including tightening controls at the ports of entry and borders and ensuring that the law was followed. Government was also reviewing the existing migration policy.

"What also gives us strength as government, is that we are working with the full support of our peace-loving population. The peace and friendship marches that are being held throughout the country embody the South Africa we know and the South Africa we are proud of."

Source: News24

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