THE diplomatic community yesterday met South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister Dr Naledi Pandor to discuss the recurring xenophobia in the neighbouring country.
Fresh attacks on foreigners started more than two weeks ago and have claimed nine lives including that of a Zimbabwean while many others were injured.
More than 50 foreign-owned shops were vandalised, looted or burnt while several cars were torched in skirmishes that occurred in the Gauteng province.
Zimbabwe Ambassador to South Africa Ambassador David Hamadziripi said the diplomatic community held a cordial meeting with South African officials meant to bring solutions to the prevailing volatile situation.
He said the meeting was attended by representatives from the diplomatic community that included representatives from organisations such as the United Nations and United Nations Development Programme.
Ambasador Hamadziripi said Dr Pandor affirmed her government’s commitment towards ensuring the safety of foreigners.
“The Minister assured us that the South African police service had deployed necessary resources to deal with the situation that they are facing on the ground. She also assured us that the government is taking all the necessary measures to put an end to incidents of violence directed at foreigners.
“The meeting was for the government to brief us (diplomatic community) on what they are doing to address the situation and also to find out how we can collaborate with the government as the diplomatic community in South Africa in addressing the situation that we are facing,” said Ambassador Hamadziripi.
He said representatives from the diplomatic community called for the reactivation of a taskforce that was set up in April to look into xenophobic attacks but never assumed its duties.
Ambassador Hamadziripi said the taskforce drawn from the South African government and diplomatic community could have come up with solutions to the violence targeted at foreigners.
“Regrettably, that taskforce never met. So (in today’s meeting) there was a renewed call and agreement that we need to activate that taskforce so that we can address this issue in all its dimensions. Not just a security issue but issues of cohesion, peace and general understanding among communities,” said Ambassador Hamadziripi.
“We do hope this time those who have been given the responsibility on the government’s side will call for the convening of that task force and come up with some concrete measures and activities to address the issue.”
Ambassador Hamadziripi said the immediate action was to ensure that calm returns to South Africa while authorities collectively work on medium and long term solutions.
“That will be the first step as there are other contributing factors to these incidents of violence. Some causes require medium and long term solutions but we have to start somewhere to identify the causes in order to find solutions,” he said.
Ambassador Hamadziripi said fake messages being circulated via social media platforms were fuelling further attacks.
He appealed to Zimbabweans in South Africa to respect the South African laws the same way the Zimbabwean Government will expect foreigners to adhere to the country’s regulations.
Ambassador Hamadziripi said those in South Africa should also take necessary steps to guarantee their safety as the situation remains very volatile.
He said they should avoid visiting areas where there is a risk of being attacked.