Msimanga was addressing the audience of non-governmental organisations, academics and government officials at a workshop on drug and substance abuse in Pretoria West.
He said: “I don’t want to sound xenophobic, but in all the raids we have done, Nigerians topped the list of the people involved in drugs.”
His Joburg counterpart Herman Mashaba was last year heavily criticised after he remarked that illegal migrants in the inner-city were the masterminds behind criminal activities.
On Friday, Msimanga diverted from his prepared speech and made the off-the-cuff remarks about foreigners, saying those who were in the country to cause mayhem didn’t belong here.
“Those who are here to be destructive and cause mayhem don’t belong in this country,” he said.
He singled out perpetrators of crime from the Nigerian nationality, saying they were among those peddling drugs in the country.
“One commonality in the raids previously conducted by the metro police was that there would be three Nigerian men and a few women,” he said.
Msimanga further suggested that the implicated Nigerian men were, in some instances, pimps of these women. “If your country is not allowing you to do it, why are you doing it to our sister?” he asked.
He said that during a recent raid he conducted with the metro police in Centurion one of the prostitutes told him that she was making R700 per client, and that she didn’t make the money for herself.
All she got was to be fed with drugs, Msimanga said.
But, Msimanga’s statement on the role of Nigerians in drug-dealing was greeted with stinging criticisms by activist groups representing the interests of foreigners.
Dosso Ndessomin, secretary of co-ordinating body of refugee and migrants communities, described Msimanga’s statement as “reckless and unfortunate”.
“For a mayor, it is a reckless statement to make. He is the executive of a particular community, which is made of locals and foreigners. He is not supposed to expose a particular community to xenophobic attacks,” Ndessomin said.
The statement has all the ramifications of exposing such a nationality to risks of being attacked by locals, he said.
According to Ndessomin, the statement was similiar to the one previously made by Mashaba.
“It is the same statement that was made by the mayor of Joburg, who was forced to retract it,” he said.
Msimanga’s position didn’t not allow him to publicly utter such statements, he said.
Nigerian Union of South Africa spokesperson Emeka Collins described such utterances as being unfortunate because they were often not backed up by facts.
“It is unfortunate that such would come from a person of the mayor’s calibre. I believe that if the authority has the impression that Nigerians are into drug-dealing they should raise it with our union,” he said.
Loren Landau, director of the African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand, also condemned Msimanga’s statement, saying it has potential to fuel xenophobic attacks.
“These are undoubtedly inflammatory statements that may well be based on biased or non-existent data.
Msimanga also criticised the laws of the country, saying they were relaxed and needed to be tightened.
He slammed the police officers who were corrupt, saying they needed to be rooted out.