South African President: Immigrants’ Native Countries Contributed to Xenophobic Violence

Denis FarrellAssociated Press
Denis FarrellAssociated Press

South African President Jacob Zuma has angered the heads of neighboring countries by suggesting that they have “contributed” to an eruption of violence in which South Africans have killed seven foreign nationals and destroyed dozens of businesses after the Zulu King compared foreigners to “head lice.”

“As much as we have a problem, our neighbouring countries contribute to this. It’s not useful to be critical of South Africa as if we mushroom these foreign nationals and then mistreat them,” Zuma said in public remarks over the weekend. “Everyone criticises South Africa as if we manufactured a problem. We should ask what caused the foreign nationals to be in South Africa,” he added.

“Why are the citizens not in their countries?” he asked, claiming that South African migrants come to the country because they “had very serious allegations against their own countries to explain why they are in South Africa.”

The remarks followed an announcement by his government that he would be sending high-ranking cabinet members across the continent to strengthen diplomatic ties with the nations whose citizens have been most affected. They did not sit well with many neighboring countries.

“If SA wants an argument on how its economy was built & by whom it will get it!” said Zimbabwe’s Information Minister Jonathan Moyo on Twitter, calling Zuma’s remarks “an unfortunate justification” for violence. Nigeria recalled some of its envoys from Pretoria, only to receive a statement from the South African government condemning the nation for being unable to rein in the Boko Haram terrorist group.

Zambia and Malawi, among the most affected neighboring countries, are calling for an international summit to discuss how to end the violence. Zambian Information Minister Chishimba Kambwiri announced the joint call for a summit noting that, according to Malawi 24 news, “when a Malawian has been hurt by South Africans who are taking part in the acts, it is as good as hurting a Zambian.” The report claims Kambwiri “has not also overlooked the fact that South Africans, who they helped in fighting apartheid, should return the favor by stopping xenophobia.”

Apartheid has come up repeatedly in Nigerian media, with columnists condemning South Africa as “ungrateful” to foreign nations who supported their fight against apartheid.

The international summit may not occur if South Africa convinces the rest of the continent that they can single-handedly solve this problem. A presidential spokesperson told the media today that “the violence has stopped” and “Our government is in charge. We are reaching out to reassure the global community that South Africa is open and stable for business.”

Seven have died and nearly 5,000 displaced from the city of Durban. Today, the International Criminal Court responded to a request to investigate Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini for remarks in which he called foreigners “ants” and “head lice” that needed to be removed. “The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court acknowledges receipt of your documents. This communication has been duly entered in the Communications Register of the Office. We will give consideration to this communication, as appropriate, in accordance with the provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,” read a statement.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.