South Africa’s president on Friday condemned reports of violence and intimidation against foreigners and called for restraint as residents of the capital were expected to protest against Nigerians and others.
Resentment against foreigners has sometimes turned deadly amid accusations that they take jobs from locals in a country where unemployment is above 25 percent. In 2015, anti-immigrant riots in and around the city of Durban killed at least six people. In 2008, similar violence killed about 60 people.
South Africans should not blame all crime on non-South Africans, the statement from President Jacob Zuma’s office said. It cited recent reports of violence in the capital, Pretoria, and hate speech on social media.
“Many citizens of other countries living in South Africa are law abiding and contribute to the economy of the country positively,” Zuma said. “It is wrong to brandish all non-nationals as drug dealers or human traffickers.”
The president also said South Africans are not xenophobic, and he called on everyone, citizens and non-citizens, to work together to combat the country’s high crime rate.
Despite South Africa’s high unemployment, the country is one of Africa’s largest economies and remains a draw for people from far more impoverished nations across the continent.
Zuma’s statement acknowledged complaints about companies that hire illegal immigrants and said the foreign affairs office “will be cracking down on all employers who continue with this practice, which is dangerous as it pits locals against non-nationals.”