zuma calls for calm as tempers flare up

Dan Fuphe

Dan Fuphe

ANC president Jacob Zuma appealed for calm and restraint as some community members called for the deportation of all foreigners during a meeting in Springs yesterday.

Zuma was addressing about 8000 people in Bakerton, near Springs in Ekurhuleni, as part of the ANC's drive to stop xenophobic attacks on foreigners around the country.

"We want them gone." insisted one person in the audience. "They must all be repatriated to their countries. We have a problem here."

Several councillors from Ekurhuleni, including mayor Duma Nkosi, attended the meeting.

Gauteng ANC leader Paul Mashatile accompanied Zuma.

Nkosi said the meeting was a response to the violent attacks on non-South Africans.

"We call for calm and restraint," Zuma said. "We are aware that some of the issues you raise involve housing and jobs at the mines.

"We know there are claims that foreign nationals work for less pay and therefore take jobs [from locals]."

Zuma said that South Africa had never experienced the kind of violence that was happening now, aimed at foreigners. He said foreign nationals had coexisted with locals for many years.

He said some foreigners had played major roles in the attainment of freedom in South Africa.

ANC members were treated with compassion when they were in exile in Mogadishu, Somalia, he said.

He criticised locals for the manner in which they treated Somalis in the country.

Some members of the audience disagreed with Zuma, with some shouting that the ANC leadership should follow the foreigners to their countries.

During his verbal assault on the ANC, one unrepentant speaker also challenged Zuma to join those who were packing for Mozambique.

Another speaker warned that Zuma would be kicked out of office if he became a stumbling block to the aspirations of the community.

Zuma remained unfazed and dignified. Though no consensus was reached about the ongoing attacks, he agreed that a follow-up meeting about issues raised by members of the community would be scheduled soon.

After the meeting some people called for attacks on foreigners be intensified.

"Tonight we'll carry on with the purging of foreigners in our midst," a woman said to her friend.