MINISTER of International Relations and Co-operation Lindiwe Sisulu addresses the media in Pretoria yesterday after meeting African ambassadors about the recent attacks on foreign nationals. Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
Minister for International Relations Lindiwe Sisulu convened an urgent meeting in Pretoria yesterday, where she and Police Minister Bheki Cele met African ambassadors to discuss the recent spate of violence against foreign nationals in South Africa.

“We had a good engagement with the diplomatic corps. As our president (Cyril Ramaphosa) has said, what happened at the weekend was pure criminality,” Sisulu told a media briefing.

“All of us must stand up and send a strong message that violence, all criminal activities, and the looting of properties of foreign nationals will not be tolerated. The police and other law enforcement agencies must act without fear or favour,” Sisulu said.

Last week more than 150 Malawian nationals in Durban were displaced from an informal settlement following attacks by locals in Sydenham. “People came with knives and pangas and chased us out,” one of the victims said. The distraught families lost everything and a number of those affected want to go home.

“We have told the High Commissioner of Malawi to tell her citizens that they do not have to go home, and they are welcome to stay in South Africa,” Deputy Minister for International Relations Luwellyn Landers said.

UN resident co-ordinator Nardos Bekele-Thomas said: “The mayor was so human and understanding, and is working with the UN to find a solution.

“The International Organisation for Migration has said that those people who want to go home are being supported. We have to find a peaceful solution.”

Bekele-Thomas encouraged the media to read the National Action Plan Against Racial Intolerance and Xenophobia which was launched last week, and monitor its implementation closely.

Nigerian High Commissioner Kabiru Bala told Independent Media: “The response of the government to the recent attacks is encouraging.

"For the first time there is a timely response and recognition of criminality and xenophobia, and the government has shown a willingness to do something about it.”

Bala said the government had been able to come up with a formidable team to address the issue, which includes the police commissioners from Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. “We remain concerned by the statements of some politicians which are not helpful and say uncomplimentary things about foreign nationals.

“These politicians need to be called to order as their remarks invite ordinary people to think they can take matters into their own hands.”

Sisulu said that there would be a second meeting with the African Heads of Mission on Friday which was expected to include the Minister of Home Affairs.

Sisulu said that the African continent had contributed and sacrificed a lot for South Africans to be free and liberated from apartheid. “South African companies and our citizens are welcomed and loved across the continent. Here at home we should do the same. We must embrace our neighbours as fellow Africans,” Sisulu said.

Ramaphosa has called on law enforcement agencies and law abiding citizens to identify the perpetrators of violence against foreigners and bring them to book. “South Africans must not present themselves as intolerant people,” Ramaphosa said.