Reports of attacks on foreign nationals blown out of proportion - Bheki Cele

Police Minister Bheki Cele says reports on recent attacks on foreign nationals in KwaZulu-Natal were "blown out of proportion" and that the issue was about crime - not xenophobia.

He said law enforcement officials were ready to deal with the criminals and that he has made himself available to have bilateral talks with ambassadors to deal with the matter.

Cele was speaking to the media on Friday alongside his international relations counterpart Lindiwe Sisulu, Home Affairs Minister Siyabonga Cwele and the head of the Diplomatic Corps, Bene M'poko, who met with ambassadors earlier.

That diplomatic meeting was the second to address allegations of xenophobia, following one on Monday.

Three South Africans were killed in the KZN fallouts between communities and foreign nationals over a week ago.

More than 200 Malawians fled from Burnwood and took refuge at police stations and a mosque.

READ: There's no excuse for our xenophobia

Cele said he submitted a report to the ambassadors, detailing how many foreign nationals committed crimes in SA, and told them the attacks were reactions to those crimes.

"Every time there are such [attacks], we found that the fuelling factor was crimes committed and we should be wary of that," said Cwele.

Sisulu added that while criminal elements were recorded in the violence in KZN, the South African government conceded that social media utterances by South Africans were purely xenophobic.

"Those messages which incite and say they will remove foreign nationals after the elections are not a true reflection of South Africa. Our citizens are not generally xenophobic," said Sisulu.

"South Africa does not have xenophobic policies," she added.

The diplomatic corps, which met at the headquarters of the Department on International Relations and Cooperation in Pretoria on Friday, agreed to establish a task team, which will look into the crimes and alleged acts of xenophobia.

"They don't have a time frame, and they will continue to meet and report back until such incidents have been dealt with completely," added Sisulu.

Meanwhile, Cwele conceded that his department was overworked when it came to deporting illegal foreign nationals from SA.

"Yes, I am worried that we spend so much on deporting foreign nationals," said Cwele.

READ MORE: Dirco to urgently meet police minister, African ambassadors over KZN xenophobia

He refused to reveal how much his department spent on sending foreigners back home, but mentioned that he submitted a  report and amount to the diplomatic corps.

Cwele said undocumented foreigners were a problem in SA but work was being done to address associated challenges.

He denounced politicians who may be using "unfortunate" words in their canvassing towards the May 8 elections, in which they chant that should they win, they will get rid of foreigners.

"They have signed with the IEC (Electoral Commission of SA) on the code of conduct, and should be condemned," he said.

The government also responded to the incidents in KZN and warned South Africans not to be "duped to believe everything they read or see on social media that is purported to be about attacks on foreign nationals".

Acting Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) Director General Phumla Williams said fake images and videos on social media were aimed at "ruining brand South Africa".

President Cyril Ramaphosa also added his voice, condemning the violence against foreign nationals and called on law enforcement agencies to act against those who commit xenophobic crimes.

Cele said officials would be dealing with crime no matter who the perpetrators were.

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