Mail & Guardian/Sapa, 16 June 2008

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President Thabo Mbeki on Monday called on the youth of the country to stand up against perpetrators of xenophobic violence. Addressing young people who had gathered at the University of the Western Cape to celebrate Youth Day, Mbeki said the youth had a responsibility to protect foreign nationals. "One of your immediate and critical responsibilities is to protect our fellow Africans who live in our country from the cowardly attacks by criminals, which we have seen here in Cape Town and other parts of our country in the last few weeks." Mbeki, who was accompanied by Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad, National Youth Commission chairperson Nomi Nkondlo and the provincial minister for community safety Leonard Ramatlakane, told the youth that recent criminal acts against foreigners shamed the country. "At the same time, we must admit that all of us have been humiliated and shamed by the small number of young people who recently took it upon themselves to lead the criminal acts against fellow Africans who live amongst us, and participated in looting their property." Ramatlakane, who was standing in for Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool, urged the youth to distance themselves from the perpetrators of xenophobic violence. "We must isolate those who are criminals in our communities." In its preliminary report, the inter-ministerial task team investigating the causes of the recent xenophobic attacks had identified young people as being part of some of the elements behind the violence. Meanwhile, the Young Communist League (YCL) on Monday dedicated Youth Day to all those who had suffered during the recent xenophobic violence. "We dedicate our June 16 to all the victims of the recent despicable and inhumane xenophobic attacks that have engulfed the country in recent months. "As the YCL we strongly believe that these attacks are a manifestation of an embedded failure by our nascent democratic government to provide quality services to all our people and an absence of leadership from the high echelons of power," the organisation said in a statement. The YCL called on young people to defend others who came from across South Africa's borders.