Other African nations should stop their citizens from migrating to South Africa to prevent violence against foreigners, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday
A wave of anti-immigrant violence in South Africa has claimed seven lives in Durban and Johannesburg over the past four weeks. The South African government has deployed troops to stop the fighting.
After a summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) called to discuss industrialisation in southern Africa, Mugabe told reporters that South African President Jacob Zuma had briefed regional leaders on the violence.
Zuma told the meeting that his government would educate its citizens to be tolerant of foreigners and would keep its security forces on alert to prevent future attacks.
“I was suggesting that we, the neighbours, must do what we can to prevent more people going into South Africa. If we can do it, we can then try to get those in South Africa home,” said Mugabe, the current SADC chairman.
“So people should get back to their own countries. It’s not just one for South Africa to resolve but for us, we the neighbouring countries, to resolve. Our people should not have the instinct of rushing into South Africa.”
An estimated one million Zimbabweans live in South Africa, after fleeing economic crisis and political violence at home over the last 15 years.
Mugabe said his government had brought 800 of its citizens back from Durban, but most of them had indicated they planned to return to South Africa, Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner.
“The people who are described as influx into South Africa are not pushed by governments,” said Mugabe, who has ruled the former British colony since independence in 1980.
“They are people who voluntarily go to South Africa. They think South Africa is the heaven, our heaven in southern Africa.”
Periodic outbreaks of anti-immigrant violence have been blamed on high unemployment in South Africa. The official jobless rate is around 25 percent although economists say is much higher.
Mugabe concurred, saying the living standards of black South Africans were low and that the migrants “who think there is heaven in South Africa and decide to go to South Africa, they make the situation of the Africans there worse.”