South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, yesterday apologised to the African continent over the recent spate of xenophobic attacks on African immigrants in his country, promising to improve cohesion between locals and immigrants.
In his eulogy during the State Funeral of the late former President, Cde Robert Mugabe, in Harare yesterday, President Ramaphosa said the recent flare-up of violence goes against the spirit of oneness that was championed by pan-African stalwarts such as Cde Mugabe and former South African leaders Cdes Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo.
Violence against foreign migrants has led to 12 deaths — including two Zimbabweans — and looting of foreign-owned businesses.
“In the past two weeks, we as South Africans have been going through a challenging period,” said President Ramaphosa to the uneasy crowd at the National Sports Stadium.
“We have had acts of violence erupting in some parts of the country, some of which was directed at nationals from other African countries.
“This has led to the deaths and injuries of a number of people, some of whom were nationals from other countries and the majority were South Africans.
“I stand before you as a fellow African to express my regret, and to apologise for what has happened in our country.
“What has happened in South Africa goes against the principles of the unity of the African people that President Mugabe and President Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and the great leaders of our continent stood for,” he said in a gesture that was cheered and applauded by the attendees.
His government, he added, was working “very hard” to encourage the “people in South Africa to embrace people from all African countries”.
President Ramaphosa thanked his fellow African leaders for the support offered to his government in the wake of the violence.
“I would like to state it here and now that South Africans are not xenophobic, South Africans are not against nationals from other countries.
“We welcome people from other countries and we are going to work very hard that we encourage and promote social cohesion of the people of South Africa working and living side by side with people from other parts of our continent.
“This we shall do because we want to embrace the spirit of unity that President Mugabe worked for throughout his life.”
Permanet Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana said Government welcomes the gesture.
“People expressed themselves and President Ramaphosa apologised on behalf of South Africa, which is something we welcome.
“The cheers from the crowd after he apologised showed clearly that the apology was accepted because from thereafter they cheered for him after initially jeering him.”
Zimbabwe, Nigerians and Mozambicans were forced to evacuate hundreds of their citizens following the violence targeted at African immigrants.
On Friday, Government repatriated 96 Zimbabweans from the Gauteng Province after two Zimbabwean citizens died from the attacks.
The group is part of 171 Zimbabweans who were affected by the disturbances.
Similarly, Nigeria has flown around 600 of its citizens home from Johannesburg after they expressed their intention to go back home.
South Africa, which is Africa’s second-largest economy, is a major destination for African migrants searching for economic opportunities.