By Everson Mushava
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has urged South Africa to use “a bit of force” to bring sanity in the neighbouring country following a recent wave of xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals that has so far claimed at least five lives.
Mnangagwa was addressing Zimbabweans domiciled in South Africa during a dinner hosted by the Zimbabwe Diaspora Federation upon his arrival in Cape Town on Tuesday for the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, which started yesterday.
The so-called federation of diasporans were led by Zanu PF youths from Harare, who included national commissar of the youth league, Godfrey Tsenengamu.
The youths were captured on camera chanting slogans in support of Mnangagwa.
The youths could have been deployed to neutralise anti-Mnangagwa protests after some Zimbabweans living in the neighbouring country last week threatened to doorstep him over the deteriorating economic situation back home and violation of human rights.
This followed the ban of MDC protests as well as a spike in abduction and torture cases last month.
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Addressing attendees during the dinner, the 76-year-old Zanu PF leader said the South African government should take drastic measures against the perpetrators to contain the situation.
“I have no doubt that the authorities here will not fold their hands. They must bring sanity and to do so, they must apply a bit of force,” Mnangagwa said.
His attendance drew condemnation from certain sections of the country after other countries like Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) snubbed the indaba, allegedly over the xenophobic attacks.
Mnangagwa is known for deploying the army to thwart dissent. About 23 people were killed in two separate protests since last year when soldiers opened fire after being deployed to quell protests organised by the opposition MDC.
But South Africa has ruled out deploying the military to control the chaos that started over the weekend, where that country’s nationals, mainly in Johannesburg and Pretoria, have unleashed violence on foreigners.
South Africans are accusing foreigners of crime, apart from taking away their jobs by offering cheap labour.
The South African government, in a tweet, said Police minister General Bheki Cele was confident their police was capable of restoring law and order back into areas affected by the violent looting and vandalism in Johannesburg central.
“Police minister General Bheki Cele reaffirms government’s stance that there will be no army deployment to areas affected by violence in Gauteng,” the South African Police Services tweeted on Tuesday.
This was despite calls by some South Africans to call for military reinforcement.
“I am appealing to the national government to please release the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to provide back-up to to @SAPoliceService and @JoburgMPD. We need to prioritise people’s safety first,” Herman Mashaba, Johannesburg mayor, tweeted on Tuesday.
Nigeria and Mozambique yesterday reacted angrily to the xenophobic attacks. South African trucks were blocked in Mozambique, while in Nigeria protestors went riotous at the South African embassy. Some Nigerians called on leftist terrorist group Boko Haram to attack South Africa in retaliation.
Sadc executive secretary Stergomena Tax and African Union chairperson Mahamat Faki condemned the xenophobic attacks.
“#Sadc condemns in the strongest possible terms the inhuman & violence against foreign fellow Africans in #South Africa, the looting and destruction of property. Sadc calls for a lasting solution,” Tax tweeted on Tuesday.
The AU chair also tweeted: “Mahamat condemns in the strongest terms the incidents of violence against nationals of fellow African countries in #SouthAfrica.”
Meanwhile, Fin24 reported that WEF executive committee Olivier Cann denied that Malawi, Rwanda and the DRC had snubbed the economic indaba over xenophobia.
Cann said the countries withdrew before the attacks, so it could be assumed the withdrawals were linked to other reasons.
But back home, most people taking to social media platforms attacked Mnangagwa for attending the indaba in South Africa, where his people were being butchered.
Jealousy Mawarire, spokesperson for the opposition National Patriotic Front, said Mnangagwa should have boycotted the event.
“The immediate reaction by African countries should have been to boycott the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town starting from September 4, 2019. Sadly, our jetphilic and per diem crazy @edmnangagwa has already rushed there without a word about his nationals being butchered in South Africa. Witchcraft!” Mawarire tweeted on Tuesday.