“What happened over the weekend was not Xenophobia but criminal activity”, says SA Foreign Affairs Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

By: Olaniyi Thevoice Abodedele
1 April, 2019

Column: Nigeria Community News

Pretoria, South Africa: Monday 1st of April 2019, South Africa's Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu and Minister of Police Bheki Cele, and the African Diplomatic community in South Africa gathered at the OR Tambo building of DIRCO to discuss issues around the recent incidents in which black foreign nationals were attacked in Durban and Limpopo.

Addressing the media at a press briefing attended by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Luwellyn Landers, the Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of Congo who is also the Dean of Ambassadors, HE Bene M'Poko and the United Nations Country Representative in South Africa Nardos Bekele-Thomas, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Lindiwe Sisulu described the incidents as pure criminality; "the President has expressed himself on this matter and he has called it a criminal activity. This is pure criminality in the words of the President and in our interpretation as the ANC."

She continued "We have expressed this to our Foreign Diplomats and we have worked out a plan".

Minister Sisulu informed the gathering that most Ambassadors spoke passionately on how they feel about the matter and they promised to gather again on Friday as they do not have all the facts available because the issue is giving people who do not have good intentions the opportunity to throw in misleading information which is not good for South Africa. "We are coming back again on Friday with the Minister of Police and the two Generals who came with him and the Minister of Home Affairs if it is possible for him to find time," the Minister said.

Irrespective of the fact that the South African government viewed the incident as criminality some Ambassadors expressed that the incidents was pure xenophobic which happens regularly, and therefore needs to be dealt with seriously. The Minister while acknowledging the African ambassadors’ sentiments noted that “today we went beyond the issue of criminality and dealt with it.’ ‘The good thing about the meeting we had today is that we are now involving Ambassadors who are representatives of their countries because they are responsible for their citizens in our country."

Minister Sisulu made reference to The Namibia Ambassador who had asked that South Africa should put across to the world and the media that a great deal of what is put on social media is not true. "This comes from a representative of another country. It is not us trying to whitewash what has happened," Sisulu explained.

The Deputy Minister Mr Luwellyn Landers who also spoke at the briefing informed that 300 Malawians were displaced as a consequence of the event and two South Africans died. One of them was shot. 

Landers spoke further; "the 300 affected Malawians have decided they want to go home. We are in the process of making sure they return home peacefully but the Minister this morning pleaded with Malawi's Ambassador to South Africa that she should please take her message back to her nationals to stay. They are welcome to stay here, we don’t want them to leave and whilst we understand that what happened is regrettable. It will be much better for all of us if they remain".

The Deputy Minister gave further clarity that the Home Affairs Minister will be joining the meeting. “Sitting down with every single African Ambassador in South Africa they will all tell you this is a serious problem that needs to be dealt with”, Mr. Landers emphasized. 

He stressed that the point has been made over and over that foreign Nationals come into South Africa and wait for years literally for their documentation and for recognition of their status and that is something that only Home Affairs can deal with, so we need to bring them in to provide some kind of clarity.


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