A vigilante mob attacks a Nigerian man outside a church in Pretoria. (File picture: James Oatway/AP)
Johannesburg - Democratic Alliance (DA) mayor of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba said on Wednesday that he was deeply concerned to hear reports of xenophobic attacks and planned protests which aimed to target foreign nationals residing within communities across Gauteng. 

Mashaba has been criticised and accused of sparking xenophobic attacks following a statement made about illegal immigrants during his 100 days in office address in 2016.

"I would like to state outright that I condemn xenophobia and my administration will do everything in its power to prevent any outburst of xenophobic violence in our city. There is no place for xenophobia in the City of Johannesburg."

In a statement, Mashaba said that Johannesburg was the pride of South Africa and was a city built by and made up of migrants from all over the world, and that citizens could not allow foreign nationals to be scapegoated the failures of previous administrations to fulfil its promises.

"There are many people who out of desperation due to political, social and economic instability in their countries are seeking a better life in South Africa. It is essential that national government cleans up its act and ensures that there is quick and efficient processing of asylum seekers and refugees," Mashaba said.

"This would protect those who wish to legitimately enter our country from criminal elements, including slum lords and drug traffickers, who abuse their desperation and are able to evade the law."

Over the past few weeks, Rosettenville residents have marched to the homes of Nigerians and set furniture alight before torching the buildings. They claimed to be ridding the area of drugs and prostitution. Around a dozen homes were torched in the Johannesburg south suburb as well as a night club, a brothel and an alleged drug den which were apparently being run by Nigerians.

"Rightfully, communities feel frustrated and burdened by the reality of not having jobs which permit them to support themselves and their loved ones and, of course, we must reject criminality in all its forms within our communities," he said.

"However, attacks on foreign nationals is an unfortunate misdirection of the community’s demand for safety and jobs." Mashaba said that while he sympathised with the concerns of communities, he could not condone partaking in xenophobic action that would endanger the safety of residents, and that doing so would open the door to attacks such as those seen in 2008 in which dozens of foreign nationals were senselessly killed.

"South Africans have a right to be angry because government has not done enough to stimulate job creation and increase the number of opportunities for all within our economy. Equally, we can never accept lawlessness in our city and any criminal, whether a South African national or a foreign national must be apprehended."

The Mayor said his administration in Johannesburg, which was elected into power in 2016, was doing everything in its power to turn the tide on high crime rates in the city.

"In my recent engagements with community members in Rosettenville I emphasized the need for residents not to take the law into their own hands and rather allow law enforcement to deal with matters of illegality and crime," Mashaba said.

"Foreign nationals are not our enemy. By working together with our foreign brothers and sisters and by all of us observing the rule of law, we can create safe, integrated and prosperous communities for mutual benefit."

African News Agency