SA government meets African diplomats over attacks

Friday, April 17, 2015

Pretoria – South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation has met with ambassadors and diplomats from African countries to discuss government's response to the attacks on foreign nationals, which have taken place in some parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane used the meeting to detail government's action plan, which includes the deployment of Cabinet Ministers and the activation of a 24-hour centre -- run by the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) -- to coordinate the response of law enforcement to these violent incidents.

Police remain on high alert throughout the country.

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said the entire Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster has been assigned to work on this issue. They are joined by the Ministers of Social Development, Trade and Industry and Small Business Development, who are charged with getting the root causes of these attacks and addressing the concerns raised by locals.

Government is also fast tracking the implementation of the National Informal Business Upliftment Strategy. The strategy is anchored on three key pillars: skills development among South Africans, exploring partnerships between locals and foreign traders and reviewing South Africa’s policies and regulations.

It proposes that government and local stakeholders build the capacity of local traders so they can become competitive through skills development, bulk and collective buying, infrastructure support (such as warehouses for storage and distribution networks), technology and more.

Another intervention outlined by Minister Nkoana-Mashabane is the establishment of shelters with basic services such as water, health centres and sanitation for displaced foreign nationals.

Government is also working closely with NGOs and officials from the United Nations to provide counselling, food and blankets for the displaced nationals. 

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane told the diplomats that government is encouraged by the stand taken by various political parties and ordinary South Africans who are against these attacks. These include the peace marches held in Durban and Johannesburg.

The Minister said South Africa is against these attacks and that it will never forget the hospitality South Africans received from other African countries during apartheid. 

Quoting the late former President Nelson Mandela, the minister said: "Africa shed her blood and surrendered the lives of her children so that all her children could be free. She gave of her limited wealth and resources so that all of Africa should be liberated. She opened her heart of hospitality and her head so full of wise counsel, so that we shall emerge victorious."

The Minister said Africa had in deed opened its doors and became home for many South Africans. 

United in adversity

Since the advent of democracy, the Minister said, the South African government has always worked cordially with fellow African countries not only to consolidate bilateral relations but also to advance continental integration.

"South Africa's foreign policy is driven by the vision to achieve a united African continent that is peaceful, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous, which contributes to a world that is just and equitable."

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said South Africa is working towards this vision guided by ubuntu. She urged South Africans not to allow others to undo this culture of ubuntu and South Africa’s historical achievements.

"We should not shed blood. We are one and united we shall stand," she said.

She committed to working with the ambassadors and diplomats to address the underlying causes of this recurring challenge.

"Let the scramble for resources, let the economic downturn and all the challenges that [we] face not close our door across the continent," the Minister said.

The Minister also addressed reports that some countries have threatened to retaliate by destroying South African businesses and banning South African music from their radio stations.

"Africans have invested through life and limb … in South Africa. This investment should not be compromised in one day," the Minister appealed.

However, she said government will not stand in the way of counties who want to repatriate their nationals.

The meeting was attended by State Security Minister David Mahlobo and by representatives from all embassies and high commissioners in the country.

Although the representatives expressed their hurt over the attacks, they said they stand united with the South African government to put an end to the needless attacks.

The Dean of Ambassadors and DRC Ambassador, Ben M'Poko, said they want to find solutions to this recurring problem.

"We want to find the solutions. As Africans when united, we can fight and defeat anything. I remain confident that working together, we can defeat this... We are committed to move forward as one."

He said the spirit of ubuntu should be a guide in this regard.

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said government through the diplomatic channels will communicate their action plan with all the African countries. –