South Africa deputy International Relations Minister Luwellyn Landers, with the Dean of Diplomatic Corps in Pretoria, Ambassador Bene M'Poko, and the United Nations Development Programme resident representative Nardos Bekele-Thomas at a press briefing to discuss the attacks on foreigners on SA. PHOTO: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

PRETORIA - Malawians affected by the xenophobic attacks and displaced from their homes in Durban have opted to return to their home country despite pleas for them to stay, the South African government said on Monday.

"Three hundred Malawians were displaced as a consequence of the events at the weekend, where two South Africans died - one of them was shot. Three hundred Malawians were displaced ... and a lot of them have now decided they want to go back home. We are in the process of making sure they return home peacefully," SA deputy International Relations Minister Luwellyn Landers said as he addressed media in Pretoria.

"The minister [international relations and cooperation minister Lindiwe Sisulu] this morning pleaded with Malawi's ambassador to South Africa, to please take a message to her nationals that they are welcome to stay here. We don't want to see them leave," Landers said. 

"Whilst we understand that what happened is regrettable, it would be much better for all of us if they remained [in South Africa]."

Attacks on foreign nationals flared up in the KwaZulu-Natal province after a shop owner, reportedly of Pakistani origin, allegedly shot at two locals who were raiding his shop. One of the South Africans is said to have died from the shooting.

eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede addressed the displaced foreigners, telling them that the local communities were ready to welcome them back.

Gumede said the attack on Malawians was not xenophobic but a criminal attack, as the immigrants' belongings were stolen by the angry mob.

Earlier on Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned the violence against foreign nationals and called on law enforcement agencies and law-abiding citizens to identify perpetrators and help bring them to book.

"As South Africans, we owe our freedom to the solidarity and support given to our liberation struggle by people across our Continent and around the world. Today, our economy and society benefits from our extensive trade and investment relations with partners on our continent and many of our continental compatriots live in South Africa where they are making important contributions to the development of our country," said Ramaphosa.

"African development depends on the increased movement of people, goods and services between different countries for all of us to benefit. We will not allow criminals to set back these processes."

Ramaphosa welcomed engagements between Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu and Minister of Police Bheki Cele, and the African diplomatic community in South Africa.

The meeting held on Monday, was  convened to discuss the current spate of violence against foreign nationals and their properties.

African News Agency (ANA)