Attacks 'an absolute disgrace'

President Thabo Mbeki yesterday called a wave of deadly attacks on migrants an "absolute disgrace" and said his government would take all measures to bring those responsible to justice.

President Thabo Mbeki yesterday called a wave of deadly attacks on migrants an "absolute disgrace" and said his government would take all measures to bring those responsible to justice.

"We must acknowledge the events of the past two weeks as an absolute disgrace," Mbeki said in a televised address last night, his first since the xenophobic outbreak began on May 11 in Johannesburg.

At least 50 people have died in attacks across the nation.

Mbeki warned that antiimmigrant violence could "take us back to a past of violent conflict".

"If it takes root it will take us back to a past of violent conflict which no one among us can afford," he said.

"This criminal violence has besmirched the image of South Africa.

"The shameful acts of a few have blemished the name of South Africa."

"Since the birth of our democracy we have never witnessed such callousness.

"As South Africans there are some things we must never forget. We must never forget our struggle for liberation has always been both national and pan-African."

Mbeki said two weeks of rioting - which has left 35 000 displaced - had soiled the reputation of the country's best leaders, such as anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela.

"These leaders have always understood there are South Africans and Africans - both local and continental," he said.

Mbeki said South Africa had been on a mission to unite governments across the continent. He said that unity also meant that we needed to continue to live with brothers and sisters from other countries.

"They would never countenance such savagery as we have seen in the past two weeks."

The ANC held rallies and public meetings yesterday to try to end the xenophobic violence.

"This programme will involve all levels of the organisation in a decisive and concerted campaign to mobilise across society to address this crisis," the ANC said.

The ANC government has been criticised for its slow reaction to the unrest and for not adequately addressing the poverty widely blamed for sparking the bloodshed.

Police, backed by the military, continued to monitor trouble spots last night. - Reuters

X