President Cyril Ramaphosa is addressing a Joint Sitting of both Houses of Parliament on violence against women. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Parliament - President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday warned South Africans to desist from engaging in the "primitive nationalism" displayed during the recent spate of xenophobic attacks in the country, saying it was showing signs of morphing into tribalistic intolerance.

Addressing a joint sitting of Parliament, Ramaphosa said there was a fine line between "turning on foreigners and turning on each other". The president cited the recent example of a Shangaan-speaking South African who was attacked because he could not pronounce the world elbow in isiZulu.

He said he experienced the same intolerance when speaking in the Shangaan and Venda languages to a group of people in Ekhuruleni.

"That immediately showed me that as we show intolerance towards those from other countries, it begins to mutate and manifest itself in tribalism among ourselves," said Ramaphosa.

"In no time, it will also be said, everyone must go back to what apartheid defined as our enclaves. We will never accept that form of tribalism." 

Ramaphosa insisted law enforcement agencies would act decisively with anyone who engages in lawless behaviour and appealed to MPs to help fight the "demon" of tribalism.

"We need to demonstrate our diversity, our unity as one nation. We will not allow this country to be sucked into a maelstrom of primitive nationalism and tribalism. We will courageously and actively resist with all our might and being attempts that seek to divide us as South Africans from each other. We must devote this same energy to eradicating lawlessness in all its forms."

African News Agency (ANA)