Malawi human rights campaigners, social and political commentators have hit back at South African President Jacob Zuma over his remarks that the growing presence of other African nationals contributed to the wave of xenophobic attacks that have rocked his country in recent weeks.
Zuma said on Monday other African nations were responsible for the influx of foreigners in his country because of failing to provide for their citizens and their criticisms on his administration were misplaced.
“Everybody criticises South Africa as if we have manufactured the problem. Even if people who are xenophobic are a minority, but what prompts these refugees to be in South Africa?” Zuma told a Freedom Day rally in Pretoria.
However, his remarks have received a backlash, with commentators saying the statement is retrogressive and against the spirit of regional integration.
International relations expert Happy Kayuni faulted Zuma, saying it was unfortunate he was making such a statement now instead of focusing on improving his country’s image following the unrest.
Kayuni, who is a lecturer in political and administrative studies at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, said Zuma should have focused on ensuring stability in his country while also assuring other African States that the issue would be addressed instead of accusing them.
Another political scientist from Chancellor College, Father Boniface Tamani, said Zuma had exhibited naiveté by his “ill-fated” statement, which he described as “as shameful from a president.”
Tamani said Zuma’s remarks demonstrated that he has no value for regional integration which countries are advocating.
South Africa is a signatory to the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) protocol on facilitation of free movement of persons within the region.
The protocol was adopted in 2005 and seeks to fulfill the objectives of the Sadc Treaty that requires member States to develop policies aimed at progressive elimination of barriers to free movement of capital and labour, goods and services and of the people of the region.
On his part, human rights activist Gift Trapence said Zuma needed to desist from making statements that are retrogressive to regional integration as no country cannot stand alone.
At least seven people have been killed in the attacks in Durban, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
More than 3 200 Malawians have fallen victims to the attacks out of which about 1 000 have already been repatriated.