Xenophobic Attacks: I Have Nothing to Apologise For – Mayor of Johannesburg

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SWITZERLAND, SEPTEMBER 19 – Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba has said he has “nothing to apologise for” following a spate of xenophobic attacks in the city. 

Mashaba was being interviewed by CNBC Africa and asked whether he too would apologise, as President Cyril Ramaphosa had done. 

“There’s nothing for me to apologise. We have the responsibility to get the president to get Home Affairs about the documentation [of foreign nationals]. What do you expect me to apologise for?” Mashaba said in the interview, which was broadcast on Tuesday evening. 

Ramaphosa apologised for the latest xenophobic attacks at the memorial service for former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe in Harare on Saturday. 

“I stand before you as a fellow African to express my regret and 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 presidents Mugabe, Mandela, Tambo and the great leaders of our continent stood for,” Ramaphosa said. 

On Monday, Energy Minister Jeff Radebe, on behalf of Ramaphosa, apologised for the attacks to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in the capital Abuja. 

Series of deadly attacks

Johannesburg and surrounding areas were rocked by a series of deadly attacks on foreigners in recent weeks, with many directed against Nigerian-owned businesses and properties, AFP reported. 

At least 12 people were killed in the violence that left hundreds of shops destroyed. Ten out of the 12 people killed were South Africans, the government has said. 

No Nigerians were killed according to South African authorities, but the violence led to condemnation across Africa, particularly in Nigeria, fuelling diplomatic tensions between the continent’s two leading nations.

The violence also prompted reprisal attacks against South African firms in Nigeria and the temporary closing of South Africa’s diplomatic missions in Lagos and Abuja.

Last week, almost 200 Nigerian migrants were repatriated back to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, following the unrest.

During the same interview, Mashaba said, although he wouldn’t apologise, he was not xenophobic, saying he called on people of the world to come to South Africa. “We welcome people of the world to come to South Africa. How can that be xenophobic? 

“What I want is the rule of law,” he added. “For me, people who are advocating for lawlessness are xenophobic because they encourage chaos.” 

Upholding the law is not xenophobic

In an op-ed piece in Afrikaans Sunday paper Rapport, Mashaba wrote about “the timidity of those in power, particularly National Government, when confronted with the issue of undocumented immigration in South Africa”.

“South Africa is rightly a signatory to international agreements that recognise and protect the rights of refugees and immigrants. However, upholding these rights does not require us to turn our backs on our own sovereignty as a democratic state. 

“Our Constitution is founded on values that include the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law. We also have the Immigration Act that sets out clear legal requirements for those entering our country.

“Countries all over Africa and the world insist on the right to protect their ports of entry and process those entering their country. They also have the right to deny you entry or deport you should you be there unlawfully, rights which are staunchly protected.

“Strangely, South Africa is expected to be the exception,” Mashaba wrote. 

Mashaba wrote that he was not being xenophobic: He merely wanted home affairs to do its job. 

“When national government fails to fulfil its responsibilities, the effects are felt by all – South Africans and immigrants alike. My administration grapples with this on a daily basis. 

“In its 130-year history, Johannesburg has been built by migrants from across our country and the world. This is a tradition I wish to see continued.

“Foreign nationals buy goods in our country, establish businesses, and stimulate economic growth. They can also contribute their skills and experience in sectors of our economy where it is desperately needed. This is key to my vision of creating a more prosperous and inclusive city.

“However, it remains my duty to raise concerns that have a direct bearing on service delivery,” Mashaba wrote. 

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