South African xenophobia under control: minister

May 27th, 2008 - 1:54 am ICT by admin  

By Fakir Hassen
Johannesburg, May 27 (IANS) The xenophobic violence that has wracked South Africa for the past fortnight is now under control, Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula said here Monday evening following a briefing with President Thabo Mbeki, even as the president came under increasing pressure for what many see as a late response to the situation. Mbeki set up an inter-governmental task team shortly after xenophobic attacks first erupted on a large scale in Alexandra township, north of here. It was this team that briefed Mbeki late Monday on progress made following the attack as well as to deal with welfare issues resulting from the attacks, Nqakula said.

Providing some statistics, Nqakula said to date 1,384 suspects have been arrested for their involvement in the violence and robberies, in which 342 shops belonging to foreign nationals across the country had been looted while 213 had been burnt down.

With mixed feelings on the way Mbeki has handled the situation so far, even his own brother, Moeletsi Mbeki, of the South African Institute of International Affairs, expressed strong views on this.

“The current government has lost its credibility,” Moeletsi Mbeki told the website

“Even a strong statement by somebody who has such weak authority will not convince the people. This crisis is the result of the failure of their foreign policy against Zimbabwe and they don’t want to admit that,” Moeletsi Mbeki said.

The president’s sibling was commenting on the policy of “quiet diplomacy” adopted by Mbeki as the world tried to intervene in the crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe has insisted on a presidential runoff against Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) next month, despite the MDC’s assertion that it won this vote together with the Parliamentary election held in Zimbabwe two months ago. Many of the foreign nationals who have come under attack in the xenophobia are Zimbabwean refugees.

Olmo Von Meijenfeldt, an analyst from the Institute for Democracy in South Africa held similar views to Moeletsi Mbeki’s: “He is not a man … to put himself at the forefront. Due to his style of leadership and his personality, he is someone who is a bit far away from the day-to-day life of these communities.”

An even stronger attack on Mbeki came from Mondli Makhanya, the highly influential editor of the country’s largest newspaper, the Sunday Times.

During a hard-hitting radio interview here Monday on Talk Radio 702, Makhanya reaffirmed his view in an editorial in the latest edition of his newspaper that it was time for Mbeki to step down, even though there was less than a year of his second term of office left.

There was also concern that Mbeki had not visited any of the sites where thousands of refugees, mainly from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, are now living in squalid conditions as aid organisations desperately try to take care of their needs, while the President of the African National Congress (ANC), Jacob Zuma, did so at the weekend, even if he was jeered at by many victims.

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