South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has told the BBC that he feels ashamed over the recent outbreak of xenophobic violence in the country and reiterated his commitment in welcoming foreigners into the country stating South Africa will never be xenophobic.
The xenophobic attacks by the South Africans include the destruction of foreign-owned shops and other businesses in the commercial capital, Johannesburg, as well as other cities.
Condemning the attack, Ramaphosa said; “My message to the whole of our continent, including to our South African people, is that South Africa cannot and will never be xenophobic.
The xenophobic attacks began just over a fortnight ago and lasted for several days.
Twelve people were killed in the violence, 10 of whom were South Africans, officials say.
In an impromptu interview, the BBC’s Milton Nkosi asked the president if he felt ashamed by the violence.
“Yes. We are very concerned and of course as a nation, we would be ashamed because this goes against the ethos of what South Africa stands for,” he responded.
We were welcomed in various other countries in the world, when we were struggling against apartheid and we cannot, therefore, be against people from other nations at this point in time when they helped us so much, BBC reported.
So this is un-South African and it has a criminal element to it and we are addressing it.
And what is pleasing is that our people as a whole are very clear that we are not against foreign nationals we always welcome them we want to live side by side with the, we want to get over this and we want them, yes, to run their businesses. Yes to live here with us.
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We obviously want everyone who is here to obey the laws of our country.”
Mr Ramaphosa spoke to the BBC shortly before he sent a team of envoys to visit seven African countries to emphasise that South Africans believes in pan-African values.
The recent violence has tarnished South Africa’s reputation in the rest of the continent. As a sign of that, Mr Ramaphosa was booed in Harare when he gave his eulogy at the state funeral for Zimbabwe’s former President Robert Mugabe.
But speaking to the BBC he explained how he wanted his country to be seen:
“We have welcomed many, many people from various parts of the continent. We are not against foreign nationals who come to our country. In fact, we welcome them.”