Xenophobia : National Joint Operational Centre 24/7 Line Established
Pretoria – Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has warned that law enforcement agencies will do whatever it takes to restore law and order in the communities affected by violence against foreign nationals.
The warning comes after the eruption of violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng targeted at foreign nationals.
To date, 307 suspects have been arrested in connection with the attacks on foreign nationals and inciting violence across the country. Officials say seven people, three of whom are South African, have died as a result of the incidents.
“We once again unequivocally condemn the maiming and killing of our brothers and sisters from other parts of the continent. No amount of frustration or anger can justify these attacks and looting of shops,” Minister Gigaba said at a media briefing in Pretoria on Sunday.
The Minister was joined in the briefing by State Security Minister David Mahlobo, Deputy Minister of Defence Kebby Maphatsoe and senior officials from the South African Police Service.
Minister Gigaba said government’s actions have gone beyond condemning the violence. President Jacob Zuma has assigned a team of Ministers to work closely with the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government to arrest the violence.
Meetings have been held with church leaders to appeal to them to preach a message of peace and to ask their followers not to take part in the violence.
Ministers have also participated in the peace march led by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu, where thousands of people marched to demonstrate their opposition to the violence.
A 24-hour call centre has been established by the National Joint Operational Centre (NATJOC) and remains accessible in the event that further attacks occur. Shelters have been set up to accommodate displaced foreign nationals and basic amenities such as water, sanitation and healthcare are being provided.
Additional law enforcement officers have been mobilised from around the country and deployed in the affected areas to enforce the law and prevent attacks.
“Government reiterates that attacks on any fellow human beings and destruction of property as well as looting are criminal offences and will not be tolerated,” Minister Gigaba said.
The Minister has met with representatives from African countries. International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has also met with the diplomatic community, which has expressed a strong commitment to work with South Africa in the wake of the violence.
Minister Gigaba said he assured representatives of government’s commitment to ensure peaceful co-existence between South African citizens and people from other African countries.
“Africa opened its doors and became a home away from home for many South Africans. The diplomatic community has been assured of our commitment to resolve the tensions and to continue to build our relations with Africa,” he said.
President Zuma on Saturday cancelled his state visit to Indonesia in order to attend to the situation. He was due to leave for Indonesia last night but will instead be represented by his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa.
The President is this week expected to lead an outreach programme to address attacks on foreign nationals.
Law enforcement up to the task
Minister Gigaba also commended law enforcement agencies, who acted decisively to prevent bloodshed between two aggressive groupings in the Durban CBD last week.
“We believe that their commitment to duty has prevented injuries and even deaths that could have happened if the security forces had not acted,” he said.
Minister Gigaba said law enforcement agencies are working hard to ensure that the perpetrators are arrested, charged and convicted.
He condemned the use of social media to spread fear and false information about attacks, something he said was contributing to even more panic and high numbers of people being displaced.
“Any credible information that suggests an eminent threat against any community, South Africans will be officially advised by the relevant authorities. We would not communicate through WhatsApp messages and anonymous SMSs,” said Minister Gigaba.
Minister Mahlobo said government has “a handle on the situation”.
“There has been a good government response… To suggest that we are doing nothing is not true.”
Lieutenant General Elias Mawela of the SAPS said there are systems in place to detect incidents of violence, even though restricted resources meant that a timeous response was not always possible.
However, he said the police follow up on information they receive.
“We would like to assure South Africans that any information shared is followed up,” he said.
He urged the community of Alexandra township, north of Johannesburg, to come forward with information related to the case of Mozambican national Emmanuel Sithole, who was stabbed to death.
Appeal for cooperation from communities
Minister Gigaba urged people with information on plans to cause violence or those who have witnessed acts of violence to contact one of the operational centres either in the relevant province or at national level:
North West 018-4977458
Northern Cape 053-8384419/375/303
Free State 051-4126652/56
Western Cape 021-4660014
Eastern Cape 040-6087401/2/3/4
Minister Gigaba thanked South Africans who have stood as true ambassadors and reflected the South African spirit of ubuntu.
“In various parts of the country, community members have stood in defense of foreign nationals living amongst them. We have also noted messages of support, condemnation and solidarity on social media.
“This provides testimony that the overwhelming majority of South Africans are against the violent attacks against our brothers and sisters from other African countries,” he said.