Former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, has spoken out against the recent spate of xenophobic violence in South Africa, saying none of the country’s socio-economic problems will be resolved by attacking immigrants. Mbeki was speaking in Pretoria on Monday, after his inauguration as the Chancellor of the University of South Africa.
A staunch pan-Africanist, Mbeki condemned the recent violent attacks targeting immigrants from other African countries:
“Many of us know that our country is facing many socio-economic challenges such as poverty and unemployment. Not even one of these problems can or will be solved by attacking the fellow Africans who have joined us as migrants.”
Higher Education Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, who contributed to the ouster of president Mbeki from office ten years ago, paid tribute to the former president, describing him as one of the greatest intellectuals in Africa:
“Despite whatever differences we might have had, since I’ve known you from 1986 in Sweden, I want to say without fear of contradiction that you’re one of the greatest intellectuals produced by our movement; not only by our movement but by our country and by our continent.”
Mbeki had also spoken out against the persecution of African immigrants during the 2008 xenophobic violence across South Africa. In an exclusive interview with Voice of Nigeria, the former president recounted the role played by other African countries, particularly Nigeria, in battling apartheid in Southern Africa to a standstill:
“Nigeria has always had, talking about independent Nigeria, has always had a critical role to play in terms of the progress of our continent. Even if you talk of Angola, you’d remember that at the time of the independence of Angola in 1975, the apartheid regime invaded Angola in order to put UNITA in power in Angola in the place of the MPLA. That caused a lot of discussion and division on the African continent. For many months, the OAU couldn’t take a decision on the recognition of the first government of independent Angola because of this until Nigeria took a decision that Nigeria would recognize this new government of the MPLA as well as contribute and assist that government to defeat the invasion of the apartheid forces and that is how the OAU then finally took a decision to recognize that government of Angola. So, I’m saying that it was not just South Africa but the whole struggle against apartheid wherever it manifested itself.”
Mbeki said it was important to educate the younger generation of South Africans on this crucial role Nigeria played.
“I mean, the matter that you are mentioning, Nigeria was the first country to take large numbers of young people who came out of the Soweto students’ uprising here and they came in large numbers, were absorbed in Nigerian schools, were looked after and so on; but as I’m saying, it may very well be that it’s our fault that we have not sufficiently made available this kind of information to the population; so they don’t know. I think it’s important because also it relates to what happens in the relations between South Africa and Nigeria after our liberation because there was already existing, a very strong platform to build a new relationship on the basis of what had happened in the past. So, it is important, I agree with you, that the South African population needs to know more about that history, that past, because it would help to explain to them why this matter of the relations between Nigeria and South Africa continues to be such an important matter,” the champion of African Rennaissance said.
Meanwhile, the Mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, has said that there is no going back on his determination to rid Johannesburg of illegal immigrants. After another bout of violent confrontations in Jeppestown, Johannesburg on Sunday night, Mashaba says he is only interested in providing a safe city. While some analysts think the Democratic Alliance’s mayor’s comments could fuel the crisis, Mashaba remains unrelenting.
“I will repeat; this country cannot be a jungle. This country is required to have the rule of law. All communities are crying for help and for anybody to want to blame me for this is really unfortunate. I don’t actually believe that I can apologise to anyone around asking for the rule of law in our country,” he told eNCA.
The mayor said his goal is to root out criminality and not to victimise foreigners.