MDC leader Professor Welshman Ncube yesterday laid into South African President Jacob Zuma for blaming xenophobic attacks on neighbouring countries, saying his stance might be construed by perpetrators as justifying the xenophobic attacks. Prof Ncube, who is related to Mr Zuma through his son, Wesley, who is married to the South African leader’s daughter, Gugulethu, said Mr Zuma’s comments could be used by South African mobs as a “pretext for continued violence”.
In his Freedom Day address to mark South Africa’s 21st Independence anniversary on Monday, Mr Zuma chastised African governments that have criticised his country for the violence that left at least seven dead and displaced thousands.
Mr Zuma, who appeared stung by criticism from African countries whose citizens were caught up in the violence, including Nigeria which recalled its ambassador, the South African leader posed a rhetorical question, asking why foreigners were in South Africa and not in their countries.
He said: “As much as we have a problem that is alleged to be xenophobic, our sister countries contribute to this. Why are their citizens not in their countries and are in South Africa?”
Prof Ncube, in a statement yesterday, said Mr Zuma’s utterances were in bad taste and their timing was wrong.
“The timing of President Zuma’s rhetorical question as to why African immigrants, some of whom have been victims of xenophobic violence, are not in their countries is all wrong, coming at the wrong time from the wrong person,” Prof Ncube said.
“At a time when the situation is extremely tense and volatile, nothing should be said by any South African leader which could be construed by the perpetrators of the killings and violence as providing a foundation or justification for the killings, violence, looting and destruction of property.
“At this moment, every action and every word of the South African government, more so President Zuma, must be directed at unreservedly condemning and stopping the killings and violence.
“Whatever might be the rights and wrongs of the illegal immigrants and whatever the wrongs of other African governments which have caused the influx of illegal immigrants into South Africa, these cannot come from the mouth of the South African government at a time when such pronouncements could be used as a pretext for continued violence.”
He said nothing else was more important than saving the lives of potential victims.
The MDC president said South Africa needs to reflect on its trade policies and its commitment to Sadc’s industrialisation as the region continues to suffer huge trade deficits against South Africa.
He said for South Africa to avoid the influx of immigrants, it has to realise that the rapid industrialisation and development of its sister countries in Sadc is important for its own secure development.
“Policies which promote only the further industrialisation of South Africa, while using the rest of the Sadc region as freely available markets for South African-manufactured goods, are not in the long term interests of South Africa itself, and the region in its entirety,” added Prof Ncube.