African Press International (API)

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South African leader finally addresses the nation on xenophobic attacks

Posted by African Press International on May 27, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.apa

The disgraceful xenophobic violence of the past two weeks is the opposite of everything South Africans have achieved since the victory over apartheid, President Thabo Mbeki said on Sunday night addressing the nation in commemoration of Africa Day.

“The shameful actions of a few have blemished the name of South Africa through criminal acts against our African brothers and sisters from other parts of the continent, as well as other foreign residents, especially from Asia. Never since the birth of our democracy, have we witnessed such callousness,” he said in a national television broadcast on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) channel.

African unity, to which South Africa was committed, meant that “in our own country, we must continue to live together with our brothers and sisters from other African countries as good neighbours. Sadly, Africa Day, on Sunday, was being marked in South Africa “with our heads bowed. As part of the reflection that Africa Day requires of all of us, we must acknowledge the events of the past two weeks as an absolute disgrace.

“The actions of these few individuals do not reflect the values of our people who for decades have lived together with their fellow African brothers and sisters, whom they accept, without question, truly as their own. South Africans should remember their struggle for liberation had always been both national and pan-African.

“We must never forget that our economy was built by the combined labour of Africans drawn from all countries of our region, many of whom died in our mines together with their fellow South African workers.

Neither should we forget that many people from other African countries helped to build our liberation movement, while many in our region died because of apartheid aggression as they supported us in the struggle to defeat apartheid,” said Mbeki.

“We must also sustain the understanding that our own progress and prosperity is dependent on the progress and prosperity of our neighbours and other African countries. Mbeki also told South Africans that the violence and criminality of the past two weeks has soiled the good name of the best of South African leaders such as Nelson Mandela.

“These leaders, together with the overwhelming majority of our people, have always understood that they are South Africans and Africans: they are both local and continental. None of these leaders, nor the majority of our people, would ever countenance such savagery as we have seen in the last two weeks,” Mbeki added.

Many South Africans, black and white, had come out to condemn this barbarity, offering food, shelter and clothing to those affected, he added. “We commend and thank all these patriots and appeal to them to continue their good work, to reject and isolate the criminals in our midst and extend a hand of friendship to our foreign guests who are nothing more than our fellow-human beings.”

Mbeki said whatever concerns people had, including those about housing and jobs, had to be addressed in a manner consistent with the dignified, humane and caring characteristics that defined the majority of South Africans, not through criminal means. They must be addressed through the structures of our democratic system.

“I also call upon community, political, religious, civil society, media and other leaders of our people to act together against the manipulation of our people by criminal elements. This is the time for unity – it is a time to speak with one voice against something which, if it takes root, will take us back to a past of violent conflict, which no one among us can afford.

“Humanity, democracy and protection of the law are indivisible. What begins as attacks on people from other countries also involves, as we have seen, the killing, rape and looting of property belonging to fellow South African citizens.”

Mbeki concluded his speech by promising that everything possible would be done to bring the perpetrators to justice.

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API

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