HARARE, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who is also chairperson of regional grouping African Union(AU), on Saturday strongly denounced the xenophobic attacks against African immigrants in South Africa and said such violence must never happen again in any country.
“I wish to express our sense of shock and disgust as we abhor the incident that happened in Durban where some five or six Africans were burnt to death deliberately by some members of the South African Zulu community,” Mugabe said in his address to mark the country’s 35th independence anniversary.
“We understand that it was a protest against the influx into South Africa of citizens of neighboring countries. The act of treating other Africans in that horrible way can never be condoned by anyone. We say on behalf of the AU that must never happen again, never happen again in South Africa or in any other country,” Mugabe said.
The president spoke amid a wave of xenophobic violence in the South African cities of Durban and Johannesburg which erupted last week and has claimed about six people so far, among them one Zimbabwean.
Some reports have linked the current wave of the xenophobic violence to anti-foreigner utterances made by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini last month. The King has denied the allegations, saying he was misquoted.
Mugabe said Africans on the African continent must be treated with dignity and that any immigrant problems among nations on the continent must be resolved amicably.
The president said on its part, Zimbabwe had put in place arrangements to repatriate its nationals in South Africa that had been affected by the xenophobic attacks.
There are about 3 million Zimbabweans living in South Africa, many of whom are educated professionals who fled their country during the decade-old economic decline since the late 1990s. State media quotes Zimbabwean ambassador to South Africa Isaac Moyo as saying that at least 1,000 Zimbabweans affected by the attacks will arrive back home Sunday.