President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed that he recently felt hurt when he was booed at the late Zimbabwean former president’s memorial service in Harare. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa has revealed that he recently felt hurt when he was booed at the late Zimbabwean former president’s memorial service in Harare. 

The incident occurred last weekend in the presence of a number of his African counterparts as he started his speech in a stadium packed with about 40 000 mourners. 

“They all collectively expressed their unhappiness about my presence there,” he said. 

The president told thousands of ANC supporters who packed the Pietermaritzburg City Hall on Friday for his memorial lecture on Mugabe that he understood that the anger of the Zimbabweans was caused by attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa.

“They were expressing it because of what some of their own nationals, our own brothers and sisters from Zimbabwe had been subjected to here in South Africa, and they expressed that unhappiness and I felt it.

“I felt that at that particular moment it was necessary to engage with our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe by saying I regret what has happened, and I also apologised,” he said.   

Ramaphosa said while other South Africans supported his apology, others condemned him for that.

“Other compatriots in South Africa said, ‘You should never have apologised. Why were you apologising?’ And some said ‘President, you gave leadership by explaining to our fellow Zimbabweans that what happened did not represent what we are as South Africans,” he said.

He said he had to apologise because he “was feeling the heartbeat, the hurt and the pain that Zimbabweans were going through”. 

“Remember that we are one and we are the same people. If we remember that, then we will feel the pain that was being felt by our fellow brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe.

“They got a sense that we were not being tolerant, and we did not appreciate them, but I did say to our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe that South Africans are not xenophobic.

“And I repeat it now, we as South Africans are not xenophobic, and we do not hate nationals from other countries and especially the Zimbabweans,” Ramaphosa said.

He said South Africa was a no place for xenophobia, racism, tribalism, regionalism and nationalism.

He said his government had invited former presidents Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique to lead a fact finding mission in South Africa.

“To help us understand the causes of the recent outbreak of violence, and to make recommendations on how we can ensure that such incidents do not recur,” he said.

He said a group of envoys led by former Energy Affairs minister Jeff Radebe to various countries across the continent to calm down anger against caused by the recent violence in Gauteng was making success.

“He is going out with a clear message to explain our situation because South Africa is not an island and we are connected to this continent and we are Africans.

“As he is going around he is being well and warmly received and he was even able to get confirmation that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is going come to visit our country so that South Africa and Nigeria can consolidate our relationship and our friendship,” said Ramaphosa.     

Political Bureau