OUR VIEWPOINT: Stop justifying xenophobia

2015-05-05 10:56
President Jacob Zuma. (GCIS)

President Jacob Zuma. (GCIS) (GCIS)

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WHAT exactly was President Jacob Zuma implying when he remarked that murdered Mozambican national Emmanuel Sithole had used an alias while in South Africa? That he deserved to be killed because he had used an alias? And that is an allegation which has still to be proved.

Zuma made the comment during a Freedom Day address, when the prudent thing to do would have been to focus on the crime that is xenophobia, instead of trying to find excuses for the barbaric behaviour of some of our countrymen and women.

His remarks follow a worrying trend of senior leaders in positions of great influence trying to justify the horrific attacks on foreigners, among the most controversial of which was King Goodwill Zwelithini’s call for refugees to return to their home countries.

And anyone who thought the deployment of the army at xenophobia hotspots around the country, including in KwaZulu-Natal, meant the end of the attacks on foreigners need only read our front page today, where we report on the murders of two more foreigners, to know that this is not true.

Moses Kilozo, spokesperson for refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Pietermaritzburg, says locals, still angry and perpetuating the impression that foreigners are stealing jobs, are taking the law into their own hands. He says the continuing attacks make the refugees hesitant to return to their homes, such as these are, in the city.

Who can blame them?

That the attacks are continuing behoves our leaders to speak clearly and responsibly, lest their words be misinterpreted with the bloody consequences experienced last month.

Whether Sithole had used an alias and whether he was in the country legally are both immaterial: there can be no justification for murder, let alone the savage manner in which he was set upon.

Zuma should rather focus on how we will prevent another wave of xenophobic attacks. This should include concentrating on job creation initiatives, which will give locals the employment they crave and, hopefully, lessen their hate for, and mistrust of, foreigners in our midst

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