ANC strongly condemns xenophobic attacks - Ace Magashule

A police officer walks through the Johannesburg city centre on September 2 after shops were set alight and goods looted. (Felix Dlangamandla, file)
A police officer walks through the Johannesburg city centre on September 2 after shops were set alight and goods looted. (Felix Dlangamandla, file)

The ANC came out strongly on Tuesday against the recent spate of violent attacks against foreign nationals living in South Africa.

In a strongly worded statement, ANC secretary general Ace Magashule said the national officials of the governing party had met on Monday to discuss the violence that has engulfed parts of the country over the past week.

"The officials were insistent that all acts of violence be condemned, including criminal acts directed at foreign nationals living in South Africa," Magashule said.

"The ANC is deeply concerned at what appears to be criminal elements sowing discord in several Gauteng communities by exploiting grievances around unemployment, crime, drugs and migration."

READ | Public violence a 'crime against our prosperity' - Ramaphosa after 2 killed in Gauteng

The party commended the work law enforcement agencies and security services had done to restore order and to arrest those involved in criminal acts.

It called on the government's Justice, Peace and Security Cluster to establish the immediate causes of the violence and identify those involved in fuelling it.

"The ANC has also heeded the calls to listen to the genuine grievances that South Africans have which may be giving rise to frustration and anger. The ANC calls upon government and social partners to accelerate efforts and work with greater impact to address the social and economic conditions of the South African people that fuel such acts of violence," Magashule said.

'No justification'

READ | Looting, attacks and fire: Deadly Joburg unrest spills over to Malvern

"These latest events underline the need for a government that is in touch with the people and responsive to their needs. All of us have a responsibility toward building safer communities and adherence to the rule of law is the duty of each one of us. No matter what grievances people may have, however, there can be no justification for the acts of arson, assault, looting and murder that have been committed against both South African and foreign nationals."

According to Magashule, officials have said that the attacks on foreign nationals run contrary to the "cherished principle of pan-Africanism and solidarity with oppressed peoples".

"South Africa is signatory to a number of international conventions around migration and refugee protection, and many of the foreign nationals in our country have fled war and oppression in their countries. All citizens should be proud that South Africa - with its strong human rights culture, Constitution and refugee protection laws - continues to offer safety and refuge to oppressed men, women and children from many parts of the world.

"Every person in South Africa, whether they are citizens, residents or visitors, shares an equal responsibility to adhere to the laws of our country and our Constitution. Law enforcement agencies should act against any person breaking the law, regardless of their country of origin or nationality."

READ | 'Violence linked to capitalist system', says Nzimande as SA grapples with unrest

Tougher sentences

"The ANC calls on its members to play an active role in mobilising communities against violence, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance. It will work with communities and grassroots organisations to restore harmony and good relations to affected communities. Later this week the national officials of the ANC will be out in communities across the country to give impetus to this call."

READ | Buthelezi's xenophobia message shunned as splinter group disrupts his speech to intimidate foreigners

In addition, Magashule expressed outrage at growing incidents of femicide and called on law-enforcement agencies to impose tougher sentences, including life imprisonment, "on those involved in such heinous crimes".

"The national officials have urged legislators to immediately consider changing legislation to empower our courts to give appropriate sentences to perpetrators," Magashule said.

On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa called on law enforcement agencies to maintain vigilance and firmness in dealing with people or groups who took the law into their own hands and violated the dignity rights of people without raising grievances with the relevant authorities, News24 reported.

"Government will not allow sporadic lawlessness and violence to disrupt the safety and livelihoods of millions of South Africans and the majority of foreign nationals in our country who are law abiding and have the right to conduct their lives and businesses in peace," he said, according to the statement.

Many shops plundered

"Lawlessness, injury and death inflict a great psychological and economic cost that lasts long after victims are buried, arrests are made and streets are cleared. This cost holds back our country and undermines all the efforts we are making to grow a South Africa that offers opportunity to all who live in it.

"Lawlessness is a crime against our prosperity and stability as a nation, and those who want to upset our public order must expect to face the gravest impact of the law."

The violence has left many shops in Johannesburg plundered. South African businesses operating in other countries of the continent, notably Nigeria, have reported a backlash in the past week.

Several leaders of other African countries also condemned the xenophobic violence.

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