DEFENCE Minister Lindiwe Sisulu is right when she says that the so-called xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals are driven by criminal elements.
Opportunistic criminals are taking advantage of the resentment that some locals feel towards foreigners to achieve their nefarious agendas. These are mere criminals bent on robbing hard-working foreign nationals of whatever little possessions they have acquired.
In most cases, the attacks happen in impoverished areas where foreign nationals live cheek by jowl with unemployed South Africans making a living from whatever available means.
All the criminals have to do is to accuse the foreigners of stealing jobs and business opportunities from locals.
Both the police and the army must be commended for their intervention in these incidents. Criminals must face the full wrath of the law. But there is also a role that ordinary South Africans can play. We must not allow ourselves to be used by these miscreants.
Yes, our communities are poor. Yes, we are confronted by the reality of having to share whatever scarce resources existing in our economically depressed communities with foreigners, but we must remain the decent people that we are and refuse to be criminalised.
Let us join hands with those who, like the youth of Cape Town's Imizamo Yethu informal settlement, are prepared to stand up and say xenophobia is inimical to the kind of society that the likes of former president Nelson Mandela and many others who laid down their lives have fought for.