Pretoria – Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Sunday government’s efforts to stop the xenophobic violence were bearing fruit.
Gigaba held a media briefing on government’s efforts to prevent violence towards foreign nationals in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng that have left at least six people dead.
“At this point we are satisfied that the security measures that are currently in place are sufficient to bring the situation under control,” Gigaba said in Pretoria.
He said President Jacob Zuma led efforts to halt the violence by cancelling a trip to Indonesia to attend to the ongoing attacks.
Zuma was due to leave for Indonesia on Saturday evening to attend the Africa-Asia summit. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa would attend the summit on his behalf.
“President Zuma appointed the ministers of State Security, Home Affairs and Police to spearhead the government’s response to the violence.
“The team was further strengthened by the president when he tasked the whole justice crime prevention and security cluster as well as the ministers of International Affairs and Cooperation, Small Business Development, Trade and Industry and Social Development departments to demonstrate the serious nature of which our government views the violence against foreign nationals.”
Gigaba said Zuma visited displaced foreign nationals in Chatsworth on Saturday to assure them of the government’s support.
“The president also engaged with the Umlazi community to spread to the message of peace and tolerance,” he said.
“He [Zuma] will in the next week lead a stakeholder outreach programme around the country to engage communities to start a conversation within our society.”
‘Full might of the law’
Gigaba warned perpetrators of xenophobic violence would face the full might of the law.
“We want to issue a stern warning to those who lend themselves to acts of public violence. We will find you and you will be dealt with to the full might of the law,” Gigaba said in Pretoria.
He said 307 people have so far been arrested for related acts since it broke out over a week ago and would face prosecution. Special courts have also been set up to deal with perpetrators speedily.
Gigaba said there were ‘elements’ that were taking advantage of the violence to plunge the country into anarchy.
“Over the past few days we have noticed a new phenomenon where people make use of social media to instil fear in different parts of the country,” Gigaba said.
“They have been sending out fictitious SMS and WhatsApp messages with fictitious and photoshopped images warning people of imminent attacks.”
He said these messages appeared to be orchestrated by elements “bent on taking advantage of unease in the communities and instil fear among the people”.
“The misinformation that has been taking place on social media should be condemned by all peace-loving South Africans as well as foreign nationals living in our country,” Gigaba said.
Gigaba sought to ensure the international community that South Africa was doing everything possible to stem the violence.
He condemned false rumours spread over social media platforms warning of attacks on foreign nationals.
“There will be no bus or train coming to attack South Africans or foreign nationals anywhere. We are determined that if there is any such information that is accurate we will stop those buses and act.
“As government we remain alert and any credible information that suggests an imminent threat against any community, South Africans will be officially advised by the relevant authorities.
“We will not communicate it through WhatsApp messages and anonymous texts.”
“To the countries that continue to invest in South Africa, we want to reassure them that South Africa is a constitutional democracy governed by the rule of law,” Gigaba said.
“Investors are welcome to do business. Everything is done to restore peace and order. Government will enforce the laws of the country to act speedily [and] decisively on any criminal activity committed by or against a foreign national or a citizen of South Africa.”
Gigaba said government held meetings with church leaders to spread a peace message.
“We unequivocally condemn the maiming and killing of our brothers and sisters from other parts of the African continent,” he said.
“No amount of frustration or anger can justify these attacks and looting of shops.”