DEBATE ON XENOPHOBIA BY THE MPUMALANGA MEC FOR FINANCE, HONOURABLE JABU MAHLANGU, MP

Issued by the Department of Finance, Mpumalanga Provincial, 2 June 2008


Madam Speaker, Chief Whip of the African National Congress (ANC), Honourable members

The attack and killing of foreigners in our country is barbaric and pure criminality. It is therefore condemned in the strongest possible terms. There is no justification that these people should be killed, their houses and shops looted and burnt, just because someone thinks they take jobs, wives and girl-friends away from them. This is simply pure criminal activities – and the perpetrators must be brought to book and dealt with very harshly.

As a country and as government, we are doing our best to deal with this barbaric issue. However, you still hear irresponsible and immature utterances from some political party leaders. The Cape Argus of last Thursday quoted Democratic Alliance (DA) leader, Hellen Zille as having said the drug problem in South Africa, caused by foreigners, was one of the causes of the xenophobic attacks. To quote her verbatim, she said: "One of them is the extent of drug trade and, in many cases it is not South African citizens who set up drug houses."

I'm still flabbergasted by such an irresponsible utterance from a person supposed to be a leader. If you actually have conscience, in this case I doubt if there's any, could you actually condone and encourage the harassment, burning and killing of another human being just because you think they are responsible for drug trafficking into the country.

Maybe she said that because in the eyes of her party the life of a black person means nothing to them, and that the people being attacked are all black. Now, I wonder whether our friends on the opposite site would agree with us when we say that irresponsible statement could actually fuel more xenophobic attacks. I wonder if they go to bed and have a good sleep, knowing that their fellow human beings are homeless, very hungry and cold.

As if that is not enough, DA Member of Parliament, Diane Kohler-Barnard goes on and tells her colleagues in Parliament that the foreigners who have recently become victims of xenophobic violence were attacked because they were "eating our food" and "flooding our hospitals." Instead of her party distancing itself from her utterances and disciplining her, they go on to protect her and say they've dealt with the matter internally. I say they've protected her because they never went in public to condemn what she said. Any responsible and caring party would never want to be associated with such selfish and inhuman utterances.

Having said all these bad things about the foreign nationals, the DA is now empathising with the affected people. They pretend to care about their well-being and started visiting them in refugee camps where they have been temporarily housed. I'm sure these victims do not want your 'crocodile tears' gooie mense! Stop pretending to care about the well-being of our fellow African brothers and sisters. We know you do not care about the well-being of a black person!

The situation is now affecting the good image of the country negatively on the outside world; an image which we have worked so hard to build and maintain over the last 14 years of freedom. It is even threatening to chase away investors to the country.

The same situation even makes us vulnerable in the outside world because the brothers and sisters of these victims are even threatening to hurt us when we land in their countries. I do not think this is what our fallen heroes and heroines struggled and died for.

As the African National Congress and the ruling party in this country, and in this province, we will not allow such acts. No one has a right to take away anybody's life, irrespective of their origin, or whether they are in the country legally or illegally. As the country, we are a signatory to the 1951 Geneva Protocol on Refugees in which we committed ourselves to ensure the protection of basic human rights of people from other countries.

We therefore commit, as government, that we will leave no stone unturned to ensure the safety of all citizens including the foreign nationals, irrespective of their status.

It is hurting when you watch your television, when you read newspapers, to see a human being burnt to death as if they are old rubbish. Where has our ubuntu gone to? Has it gone to the dogs as it is normally said?

Madam Speaker, Honourable Members, these people are the same people who gave us refugee in their countries during the hard dark days of apartheid. Are we so quick to forget what situation were we in previously?

We all promised to adhere to the preamble of our country's Constitution in which we promised and I quote:

"We, the people of South Africa, recognise the injustice of our past; honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity!"

We should make sure that our commitment that "South Africa belongs to all who live in it," is realised.

When we were bidding to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, we said we want to do this for Africa, and not South Africa alone.

What message are these criminals who are committing such barbaric acts communicating to the rest of the world?

Are we saying to them that we are selfish and inhuman? Are we saying we were not telling the truth when we said the hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup is for the people of Africa? I don't think so!

In concluding Madam Speaker, Honourable members, as the ANC and the ruling party, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the harassment and killing of our own brothers and sisters from other countries. We say all those who are giving our beautiful country a bad name by committing such inhuman acts, should be brought to book and face the consequences.

One of our freedom struggle songs, Nkosi Sikele' iAfrika, request the almighty God to protect every citizen of Africa and not of South Africa alone. As South Africans, we are part of the bigger Africa and should continue to be exemplary to the rest of the continent. No one is going to derail us from doing that. It is an undertaking that we made and will ensure that it happens. "South Africa belongs to all who live in it".

May I take this opportunity, on behalf of the Mpumalanga government, to thank this community and all the people of Ehlanzeni District for having not been swayed by the wave of hatred that has engulfed our beautiful country. Our brothers and sisters from the neighbouring countries are as much human beings as we are. We call on you to be vigilant and to avoid being manipulated by criminal elements who seek to exploit people's fears and concerns. We the people of Mpumalanga have lived with people from Mozambique and other countries for many years without trouble. We have accepted them, and will continue to do so.

Our condolence goes to the families of the deceased 62 people. We wish the injured a speedy recovery and hope that the displaced people will be re-integrated soon into our communities.

Nkosi Sikele' iAfrika! Hosi katekisa Afrika!

Ngiyathokoza!