President Jacob Zuma yesterday urged South Africans to embrace immigrants and accept that the country cannot succeed in isolation.
In his national address through the South African Parliament, Zuma said anti-immigrant attacks that have displaced thousands of foreign nationals, injuring scores and killing some, violate all the values that South Africa embodies.
Zuma has since ordered South Africans to leave the foreigners alone, and that no one should be forced to leave.
Said Zuma: “Many foreigners bring skills that are scarce and have led to the development of this country, so welcome them and they must stay.
“Others came here as foreigners and asylum-seekers due to wars [in their countries], among others. Just like we were at one point, let us treat them with generosity, dignity and respect.”
Back home, Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture Kondwani Nankhumwa yesterday said the six buses hired to ferry trapped Malawians from Durban in South Africa were expected to start off through Johannesburg last evening.
According to Nankhumwa, as of yesterday, the number of trapped Malawians in Durban had risen from 420 to 500 and the figures are expected to continue rising; hence, government’s commitment to ensure the safe repatriation of all the displaced and injured Malawians.
Nankhumwa said latest information government has shows that the xenophobic attacks had escalated to Johannesburg as of Wednesday night and scores of foreigners from that side were seeking refuge at a police station.
“Government has not yet established how many Malawians have been affected in the recent attack because our police officers are failing to reach the police station as the attackers have placed stones and logs to prevent anyone from reaching the place.
“Once it does, it will send some more buses to repatriate them back home as the repatriation process is ongoing until all Malawians who are in danger are brought to safety,” said Nankhumwa.
On the claims of death of a Malawian, Nankhumwa said the details that Malawian officials in South Africa have are still sketchy and according to an update on the repatriation process from the office of the Office of the Vice-President, three have been seriously injured in the attacks with one of them being taken care of by relatives at home right there in South Africa while the two others are believed to be in the camps.
As we went to press, Vice-President Saulos Chilima was expected to give an update on the latest developments, but the statement from his office said that as the repatriation exercise gets underway, Lilongwe has urged the South African Government to ensure that proper security measures are provided to all the affected people to avoid loss of life.
In a related development, a group of Malawians being led by human rights activist Billy Mayaya have organised demonstrations to the South African Embassy in Malawi against xenophobia on Malawians in South Africa.