Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma says South Africa is not a xenophobic country and the human rights of all people are respected.
This following a march on Friday which was initially meant to be a protest against crime but was marred by violence, looting and destruction of property. There has been tensions between South Africans and non-nationals this week in Pretoria and Johannesburg.
The President has cautioned against labelling the fight against crime as xenophobic, saying South Africans can never be accused of xenophobia as the country carried the most number of immigrants than Europe and had effectively integrated them within all communities across the country, including townships like Mamelodi and Soshanguve in Tshwane, as well as Soweto and many parts of Johannesburg.
"At the same time, we cannot close our eyes to the concerns of the communities that most of the crimes such as drug dealing, prostitution and human trafficking are allegedly perpetuated by foreign nationals," said President Zuma.
He said the community frustrations are sparked by high levels of criminal activities particularly drugs trafficking, under-age prostitution and human trafficking which are impacting on the youth negatively and are alleged to be perpetuated by the foreign nationals.
"But the march in Pretoria today [Friday], which was also attended by foreign nationals, was an anti-crime not anti-foreigners and we appeal to all the marchers to protest within the confines of the law.
"No destruction of property, no burning and barricading of roads, violence or killing of people would never be tolerated and the law will take its course.
"In South Africa, we respect the Human Rights of all people and we are a not a xenophobic country and we would not have such a number of immigrants within our country and at our borders, many of whom have genuine reasons of fleeing their countries including economic and education opportunities, if we were a xenophobic country."
Meeting with JCPS Cluster
The President also said he had convened a meeting with Ministers in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster in Cape Town and directed them to look at further ways to increase the fight against crime as "South Africa simply could not continue to co-exist with crime".
"I will be talking to the police again to follow up on the meeting with the Security Cluster on the measures to undertake in this fight and how government will support the law enforcement authorities."
The President is expected to meet with the Security Cluster and more communities to further discuss increased measures to fight against crime and ensure that the situation in the affected areas is returned to normalcy.
Criminals to face the full force of the law
The President has reiterated that any person who commits a crime should be dealt with in terms of the law irrespective of whether it's a local or foreign national person.
"We also want to warn foreign nationals to live and operate within our laws and know that they will be brought to book if they commit any crime within the Republic."
President Zuma also urged protesters to isolate culprits who are taking advantage of the legitimate protests and grievances of the communities to commit criminal activities and not take the law into their hands but instead to report crime to law enforcement authorities.
Call to work with law enforcement agencies
"We call on all citizens and non-South Africans to work together with law enforcement agencies to fight crime and expose the instigators of these criminal activities including drug-lords, illegal brothel owners and human traffickers.
"We just cannot co-exist with crime, criminals, whether they are South Africans or foreign nationals, they must be dealt with harshly but within the ambit of the law. Let's us all make South Africa a safe and a friendly place to live in."
Human rights will always be protected
The President reassured all non-South Africans that their rights would always be protected where they live and work according to the laws of South Africa.
President Zuma also appealed to political leaders to refrain from making reckless and irresponsible statements that have the potential of fuelling tensions between South Africans and foreign-nationals.
"We urge unity among both our citizens and non-nationals in the fight against crime," he said.
Source: South African Government News Agency