Parliament - Government on Friday warned that South African nationals and companies abroad could suffer a backlash as a result of the deadly attacks on foreigners in recent weeks.
“The impact of attacks has far reaching implications on our economic, social and relations with the continent and the world,” Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe told a briefing on Cabinet’s regular fortnightly meeting on Wednesday.
“South African companies who are running successful businesses in the continent who help to contribute to our revenue and sustaining our economy may suffer the same fate.”
He added that the effect on the overall image of the country was dire.
“Those who are involved in these attacks should be aware of the huge, huge damage that this is doing to the image of South Africa.”
Radebe said government had noted three instances where South African artists were scheduled to take part in events abroad but were told they were no longer welcome because of the wave of xenophobic attacks in Kwazulu-Natal and elsewhere. He mentioned that artists such as BigNuz, Kelly Khumalo and Cassper Nyovest had their concerts cancelled in Zimbabwe and London, as a result of these attacks.
Radebe said the fallout from the attacks also affected local communities who were serviced by foreign-owned shops.
“Many of our communities who relied on shops owned by foreign nationals for their bread and butter are now stranded.”
Cabinet appealed to communities, organisations and individuals to join in the fight against xenophobia and also reminded South Africans of the contribution of several African countries to the liberation struggle.
“Fellow African countries did not only host our people, they also contributed resources and some paid the ultimate price and lost their own citizens in the course of South Africa attaining democracy,” said Radebe.
“South Africa is not a violent country and therefore a few individuals cannot be allowed to hold the whole country at ransom. Violence has never been a solution for problems in any society and will never be in South Africa. Not in our name.”
Cabinet reiterated President Jacob Zuma’s sentiments that poverty did not justify the attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops.
“Whilst noting the issues raised by communities, violence towards another fellow human being can never solve these issues. Rather, it reflects badly on us as a people, going against the very ideals and foundations of our democracy,” Radebe said.
He said the deputy secretary general of the ANC, Jessie Duarte, had informed him that the ruling party and alliance partner Cosatu had instructed local branches to assist communities touched by the attacks, which have claimed five lives and displaced hundreds of foreigners.
Radebe said the South African diplomats would engage with the governments of those countries who nationals had been targeted.
He conceded that the government had been caught unaware as it had believed that xenophobia had abated after a spate of attacks in 2008.