'This is not xenophobia, thugs are taking chances', says Magashule on Gauteng unrest

2019-09-04 20:31
Shops looted and set alight in Pretoria CBD. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

Shops looted and set alight in Pretoria CBD. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

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The ANC's secretary general Ace Magashule has denied the existence of xenophobia in South Africa, instead saying it is just criminality that has taken over.

Magashule addressed members of SA Students Congress (Sasco) at the Tshwane University of Technology on Wednesday, ahead of the university's student representative council elections on Thursday.

"What I know, which is factual, is that our presidents, the presidents of Africa are talking, and they have analysed this correctly. They know what is happening. It is not acts of xenophobia, it's acts of criminality," said Magashule to journalists at the side-lines of the Sasco's election rally.

He further described some of the acts as "tribal battles".

READ: Death toll rises after two burned bodies found in Alexandra

South Africa has experienced a wave of protests, in which communities have looted both foreign and South African owned shops while calling for an end to the presence of drug syndicates.

Gauteng's been the most hardest hit province with sporadic violence occurring across all three of its big metros.

"Criminals are actually seizing the opportunity to do [wrong] ... that's why we say police must act very harshly against criminals," continued Magashule.

Earlier, head of strategic communications and member of the World Economic Forum (WEF) executive committee, Olivier Cann confirmed that Malawi and Rwanda would not be attending the forum. This followed claims that several African heads of state would not attend in protest to the current looting and xenophobia-related violence in Gauteng.

Magashule said he had spoken to Rwanda's President Paul Kagame in the morning and knew he couldn't make it to South Africa for the forum due to his commitments as African Union chair.

He, however, said delegations from both Rwanda and Malawi were participating in the WEF.

"This is not xenophobia, even South Africans are getting killed. Thugs are taking chances"

Magashule spoke out against the violence during his speech to students, claiming this was an attempt to further divide the African continent, as had been done during the colonial era.

"This is not xenophobia, even South Africans are getting killed. Thugs are taking chances," said Magashule.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has also come out saying there is no truth to the suggestions that African governments snubbed the Forum, taking place in Cape Town, because of the violence.

"The heads of state and government, who have confirmed attendance, are all taking part in the WEF Africa event. The event is proceeding smoothly and attendance is satisfactory," said department spokesperson Lunga Ngqengele in a statement.

ALSO READ: 'At least I am alive and safe': Xenophobic violence spreads to Alexandra where it started in 2008

He reiterated that Rwanda indicated Kagame would not be in attendance. The Democratic Republic of Congo, according to Ngqengele, did not confirm their attendance while no correspondence was received from Malawi's Peter Mutharika.

"There is therefore no truth to the reports that the three heads of state have cancelled their visits due to the attacks on African migrants," said Ngqengele.

"South Africa recognises that its future is inextricably linked to that of the rest of the African continent. That is why South Africa plays a leading role in regional and continental efforts aimed at bringing about political stability, peace and security as well as economic development," he said.

Ngqengele added South African law enforcement agencies were taking steps against perpetrators of violence as shops owned by foreign nationals have been looted in recent days, while truck drivers from neighbouring countries have also been targeted.

South African companies feel the wrath

Meanwhile, MTN, MultiChoice and Shoprite have closed shops as South African companies in Nigeria and Zambia are being targeted by protesters following the xenophobic attacks. 

At the same time, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's government summoned South Africa's envoy on Tuesday and said it would dispatch a delegation to Pretoria to express "deep concern" over attacks on Nigerians.

Read more on:    wef  |  cape town  |  johannesburg  |  xenophobia

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