South African President Jacob Zuma on Friday appealed to the country’s citizens not to blame all criminal activities on non-nationals.
“Many citizens of other countries living in South Africa are law abiding and contribute to the economy of the country positively,” Zuma said amid a new wave of xenophobic violence that is gripping some townships.
It is wrong to brandish all non-nationals as drug dealers or human traffickers, Zuma noted.
“Let us isolate those who commit such crimes and work with government to have them arrested, without stereotyping and causing harm to innocent people,” he added.
However, Zuma said there are real concerns by South Africans in many areas about serious crimes that are destabilizing communities.
Also, a march took place in Pretoria West against illegal immigrants following violence in the area, where some people were reported to be stopping vehicles from leaving the township.
In other areas, ambulances are prevented from fetching sick people to take them to hospital and delivery vans have to be escorted by police when entering the townships.
“Our people cannot continue to live in fear like this,” said Zuma.
The latest developments have prompted Zuma to champion the fight against crime in order to promote safer and more stable communities, in light of several complaints from communities about drug trafficking and abuse and other serious crimes which cause fear among many residents in the country, his office said.
The situation has become more serious in light of current threats of violence and acts of intimidation and destruction of property directed at non-nationals living in South Africa, Zuma said.
Residents in some communities blame non-nationals for the escalating crimes especially drug trafficking and rising unemployment.
Violence against foreigners erupted in Pretoria West and nearby Rosettenville earlier this month.
There is also simmering tension that has been reported in other areas including the dissemination of hate speech and threatening messages via social media.
Zuma strongly condemned the acts of violence and called upon citizens and non-nationals to exercise restraint, unite against crime and work with the authorities to bring perpetrators of crime to book.
He said the government has also noted the complaints of South Africans about companies that employ illegal immigrants.
Zuma reiterated that the Department of Home Affairs will be cracking down on all employers who continue with this practice, which is dangerous as it pits locals against non-nationals.
The president reaffirmed his assertion that South Africans are not xenophobic and that the problems they are raising with respect to crime will be attended to.
He called from unity among citizens and non-nationals to fight crime.
“The threats and counter-threats on social media must stop. All must exercise restraint, respect the laws of the land and work together to fight crime and build safer communities,” the president said.