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Never forget Africa's role in SA's liberation, says Mbeki

Politics
Pretoria – New chancellor of the University of South Africa (Unisa), former president Thabo Mbeki on Monday condemned the recent anti-immigrant protest march, which was preceded by attacks on foreign nationals in different parts of Gauteng.

"I must express my grave concern at events which took place In this city last week, in the context of what was reported as an anti-immigrant march. In that context, I want to say 'thank you' to Ringo Madlingozi for what he said in the songs he rendered," Mbeki said in his landmark acceptance speech, shortly after his inauguration at Unisa.

"As South Africans, we should never forget the enormous sacrifices that were made by the sister people of Africa, to help us achieve our liberation. We cannot now behave in a manner that treats fellow Africans, who are now residents in our country, as enemies or unwelcome guests. Neither should we commit the offence of viewing or characterising African migrants in our country as criminals."

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Former President Thabo Mbeki speaking out against Xenophobia. PHOTO: ANA

Mbeki said communities must report criminal activities to police and avoid taking the law into their own hands.

"When our communities discover or suspect criminal activities in their areas, regardless of the nationality of the alleged criminals, it must be reported to the [South African] Police Service. The police service itself has an absolute obligation to follow up on these community reports ... to avoid people taking the law into their own hands," said Mbeki to applause in the packed auditorium.

"All of us know that our country faces many socio-economic challenges such as poverty and unemployment. Not even one of these problems can or will be solved by attacking fellow Africans who have joined us as migrants. Those who organise and participate in these attacks, which must stop, must know that there is absolutely nothing revolutionary, progressive, patriotic, acceptable or of service to the people in what are, in fact, criminal activities."

Introduced by a praise singer as "a former president who is current", Mbeki, a leading proponent of African renaissance, used his inauguration speech to promote the idea.

Before Mbeki was ushered to the podium, celebrated South African musician Ringo enchanted the delegates with a rendition of two songs – Kum nakum and Inkhokheli.

During the rendition, Madlingozi denounced the attacks of fellow Africans in South Africa.

"I love you, my brother. I love you, my sister. I am because of you. We need that message today in South Africa. To our brothers and sisters from other parts of Africa, we are one in Africa," Ringo serenaded the delegates.

On Friday, police were forced to intervene as crowds of South African nationals, mainly from Mamelodi and Atteridgeville, marched to Pretoria West, largely inhabited by Pakistani and Somali immigrants.

Numerous confrontations between locals and immigrants have previously left several people dead in different parts of South Africa – a favourite destination for immigrants because of the strong economy and democracy.

The appointment of Mbeki as the new chancellor of Unisa took place during the institution's council siting on December 8, 2016.

"He was unanimously found to be a suitable candidate as a result of his outstanding leadership and his credentials as arguably the most prominent 21st century proponent of the African Renaissance," Professor Mandla Makhanya, Unisa Principal and Vice Chancellor said in a statement to the media.

"Through his political leadership, President Mbeki has been involved in various leadership roles in the liberation struggle and post-Apartheid nation-building programme for almost six decades."

Mbeki is still involved in a range of conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction efforts across the African continent. These include his role as the chairperson of the African Union/United Nations Economic Commission of Africa High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa.

Mbeki succeeded the iconic Nelson Mandela as President of the Republic of South Africa in 1999, but left the position under a cloud in 2008 after he was recalled by his party.

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