POLITICAL NEWS - Ramaphosa issued a thinly veiled apology on Saturday while addressing mourners at the funeral of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said the special envoys – Jeff Radebe, Ambassador Kingsley Mamabolo and Dr Khulu Mbatha – would deliver a message from Ramaphosa regarding the recent violence which had manifested in attacks on foreign nationals and destruction of property.
“The envoys are tasked with reassuring fellow African countries that SA is committed to the ideals of Pan-African unity and solidarity. The envoys will also reaffirm South Africa’s commitment to the rule of law.”
Diko said they would brief the governments in the identified African countries about the steps that the SA government was taking to stop the attacks and hold the perpetrators to account. The African Diaspora Forum Vusumuzi Sibanda described the deployment of envoys as “interesting” and wondered why Ramaphosa did not approach the local victims themselves.
“By sending his envoys to these countries, he is acknowledging there is xenophobia in South Africa. The message is a mix-up,” Sibanda said. “This is a PR exercise so that there is no retribution or backlash from those countries. The president is concerned because those countries might retaliate, but he has not said anything about us who are victims in SA.”
But political analyst Zamikhaya Maseti said the purpose of the visit was wrong if it was for SA to apologise for the attacks on foreign nationals.
“What is the apology for? If the intention is to apologise, Cyril doesn’t know what he is doing. We owe nobody an apology. But if the visit is about conveying a certain message, he is on the right track,” Maseti said.
He said for South Africa to go to the other African countries to beg for mercy was nonstrategic because South African citizens were not xenophobic, as such, but had reacted to acts of criminality by some foreigners.
Due to lack of government controls and policies, some foreigners were offered jobs by the private sector and others illegally occupied government RDP houses. All that caused envy among South Africans who were unemployed or had been on government subsidised housing lists for long.
The political analyst, who specialises in policy and governance matters, was adamant many of the foreigners were illegally in the country and some were involved in criminal activities.
Their countries should take responsibility for their activities and apologise to South Africa. Maseti asked that if these envoys went to apologise, would they be apologising for Timothy Omotoso in Nigeria and Shepherd Bushiri in Malawi?
He was referring to the two faith healers who faced criminal charges after allegations of sexual assault and fraud they allegedly committed in South Africa.
However, South Africans should embrace immigrants who came through proper channels, with correct documentation, and who had skills that could contribute to the country’s economic growth, Maseti said.
He dismissed the justification often made by some in the ANC that foreigners must be allowed to stay because the ANC members who went to exile were never ill-treated in the host countries.
“It should not be blown out of proportion, because the ANC exiles were controlled by the laws of the host countries and international rules governing political refugees. They were not all over those countries like now in SA,” Maseti said.
But analyst Ralph Mathekga commended Ramaphosa for the envoy deployment.
“It’s a good effort to communicate our responses to neighbouring countries. Reaching out is a good initiative,” Mathekga said. “It shows SA leaders are taking ownership. I hope it is met with constructive engagements across the continent.”