Umshini isn't a song to kill, says Zuma

By Xolani Mbanjwa Time of article published May 19, 2008

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ANC president Jacob Zuma has condemned the singing of his trademark song Awuleth' umshini wami by those attacking foreigners, saying this creates the impression that the ANC supports xenophobic violence.

Zuma was addressing an ANC imbizo at the University of Pretoria's Vista campus in Mamelodi on Sunday.

He said the ANC - which has criticised the violence - "can't be associated with such senseless acts".

"Umshini wami belongs to the ANC. Who are these people abusing this song while they are doing wrong things? They are abusing the names of ANC leaders in the process," said Zuma.

He said he had received two reports of people in Alexandra and other areas singing Umshini wami while attacking foreigners.

According to those reports, "criminals are sparking these xenophobic attacks and some political organisations are also perpetuating this - I don't know how true this is".

Zuma - who was accompanied by Gauteng ANC chairman and finance MEC Paul Mashatile - said he met Somalis, Mozambicans and religious and traditional leaders in Mamelodi to discuss the attacks.

"The hatred of certain people just because they are foreigners is becoming a general problem, but how we conduct ourselves says a lot about us in the international community," said Zuma.

He said it was difficult to understand why "nothing is happening to so many foreigners who are outside of Africa and are not black".

Zuma said South Africa had a progressive and respected constitution with policies on refugees.

"We should be the last people to have this problem.

"Maybe we (ANC) haven't been able to explain how much African countries helped us during the struggle for our freedom."

Exiled ANC members received "maximum" support and military training in African countries, he said.

"We can't be a xenophobic country. It's not good for our country. We need to find the culprits responsible for the attacks. I am hoping this problem will not get worse than it already is."

Foreigners at the imbizo were moved by Zuma's speech against xenophobia.

Ahmed Dawlo, the director of the Somali Association of South Africa, said: "This is the most positive speech I've heard from a South African leader and I have been here since 1995."

Dawlo said Somalis had been "traumatised" by the increase in the "belligerent" violent attacks, but still had faith in South Africa as a country.

"Somalis and other foreigners have been asking themselves: where are the good people of South Africa when we are killed and attacked?" said Dawlo.

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