Zuma: Majority of South Africans not xenophobic

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma has acknowledged that the recent attacks on foreign nationals was not a first time occurrence but reassured organisations representing them that majority of South Africans were not xenophobic.

Zuma met with more than 50 representatives from various organisations representing foreign nationals in South Africa at the Sefako Mapogo Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria on Friday.

Seven people have been killed during the violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in the past weeks.

The president called the meeting to hear foreign nationals' concerns and communicate government's efforts to end the attacks and discuss a possible solution, the presidency said.

"As government we believe in dealing with the challenges we face together," Zuma said in a statement following the meeting.

"Therefore we called this meeting so we can discuss and involve organisations representing foreign nationals in South Africa in finding collective solutions so that these attacks do not happen again.

Permanent solutions

"We have to ensure that permanent solutions are found, so that all our people can continue to live side by side together like we have done for years," he said.

During the meeting a progress report on cases brought before the court relating the 2008 xenophobic attacks in South Africa was received.

According to the presidency from January 2008 to 2009, a total of 79 cases were brought before the courts with 132 accused appearing. All 132 were convicted and sentenced.

The presidency said this was a clear demonstration that government was committed to bringing perpetrators of the attacks on foreign nationals to book, and that it took the attacks seriously.

The organisations made some suggestions to the president.

Migration policy

These included: developing an anti-xenophobia campaign which could be actively promoted in communities; having the SA Police Service (SAPS) treat all citizens equally and investigate all cases; foreign nationals living in South Africa should contribute to the development of communities they live in; and government should consider the standardisation of labour practices so that employers could be forced not to employ cheap labour and exploit people.

The organisations also wanted government to revisit its migration policy and processes.

Zuma assured them that government was taking the matter seriously and was working on a long term plan.

Last week, Zuma announced the establishment of a inter-ministerial committee, led by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, to deal with the issues.

Representatives who met with Zuma on Friday would also form a small committee which would interact with the inter-ministerial one to take forward the suggestions made in the meeting, the presidency said.

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